17 Sep 2023  |   05:01am IST

Let not Goa become the Pattaya of India

On June 14, 2004, when the monsoon had just arrived a week earlier, the late Manohar Parrikar-led government acting on the directions of the High Court of Bombay in Goa, demolished the lone identified red-light district in the State at Baina.

The High Court issued the directions in July 2003 to clear the area occupied by hundreds of cubicles housing thousands of commercial sex workers (CSW).

Back then, unlike today for any local to even take the name of the place, Baina, amidst family members, was akin to using foul language. However, Vasco-da-Gama, the port town of the State, witnessed a huge influx of domestic tourists, mostly males, jam-packed in minivans and arrived at restaurants, lodgings, hotels, etc. Reports suggest that the red-light area existed for nearly a century and the port town made its mark on the tourism map for the sex tourism it provided at the Baina beach. The demolition led to the displacement of thousands of CSWs and also those not involved in prostitution, who could have spread across the State.

Though no provisions of the law makes prostitution illegal in India, several related activities are illegal. Those who know the loopholes in the laws, along with and under the protection of those who have sworn to enforce the law, have been taking advantage of the lacunae.

The international sex racket busted last week highlights the malfeasance of the police. How else would the Police Department justify that it was not their intelligence but a call from one of the victims to the NGO ARZ that led to the arrests of the accused? A Head Constable who had stalled two previous transfers was shunted out to GRP. The FRRO proved that Goa has become a safe destination for sex trafficking with the agency not even bothered to track down those whose visas have expired. In such a circumstance, it could also become an issue of national security.

Goa Police’s cybercrime cell has failed miserably. Those involved dare to advertise the websites, the contact details and even the starred hotels where these girls meet their clients, only because the police and the law enforcement agencies have failed to protect the citizens and lives of those innocents who are being trafficked and pushed into the flesh trade.

It will do no good to the police and the society, for the DGP to indulge in a slugfest of words to prove credibility. The credibility of Goa Police will only be restored by swift and strict action against those involved in illegal activities, including government servants, and in saving Goa from becoming the next sex tourism destination on the global map.

NGOs believe that the Baina red light area demolition has been a pyrrhic victory for the government. Almost two decades later, Goa is on the verge of becoming the most sought-after sex tourism destination in the country. From being called the ‘Rome of the East’, Goa would soon be identified as the Pattaya of India. It is only in the interest of the State and the citizens that the government and the police wake up from their slumber and act in good faith.


Idhar Udhar