Despite the government’s assertion that mining operations in the State could resume within six months from March this year, if there are no hurdles, the possibility of a longer hiatus in the mining industry cannot be ruled out. For now, mining continues without a pause until March 15, but the question is what after that. As the government wrestles with the task of giving the iron ore mining industry a new lease of life, and as quickly as possible, the need to look at alternatives to prop up the State economy in the long run cannot be understated.
The State has based its economy mainly on mining and tourism. The latter, the world over, is known to be a fickle industry. In recent years in Goa, the other mainstay of the economy – mining – has also proved to have had its seesaw moments, and right now is on a downside with little tangible hope that it can rise up anytime soon. Against the backdrop of the Supreme Court order striking off the 88 mining leases, tourism is set to retain its special status as a major partner in Goa’s economic progress, and so has to be treated with the respect it deserves. The efforts undertaken to retain Goa as a premier tourism destination in the country need to be improved by several notches, or else the initiative that the State has had for so many years may be lost.
We are in the midpoint of the tourism season, and it did begin on a high note, with shack licences given on time, charters landing at regular intervals with loads of international tourists, and of course the domestic tourists pouring in. But then came the snags, one of them in the form of a strike by the tourist taxi operators, which drew quite a bit of negative publicity for Goa tourism on the social media. Carnival, coming just three weeks after the strike, could therefore, become a vehicle to change the perception that the strike left in tourists, of Goa not being a tourism friendly State, but the late start to the preparations does not inspire much.
Just days after the Supreme Court shocker of quashing all 88 iron ore mining leases in Goa, the State hastily girds up for the annual Carnival. Though this is a festival that is celebrated every year in February, the government appeared ill-prepared for it, even a fortnight before its commencement, having its first meeting a little over 10 days before the first float parade was scheduled to roll out in Panjim. For a State whose economy depends substantially on the tourism industry, and Carnival being one of the major draw for tourists – domestic and international – the apparent lackadaisical attitude displayed may need to be urgently altered, especially since the mining industry in Goa is now expected to enter into a long hiatus, from the coming month.
Carnival no doubt is being held, with float parades in all towns, beginning with Panjim. But what is different in this year’s celebrations, which will make the festival standout from earlier years? Except for a route change in Panjim, increased prize money and a food and cultural festival happening alongside the carnival extravaganza, there will be little to differentiate between the festival last year and the one this year, to attract repeat tourists and increase footfalls in the State.
With mining set to take a backseat, albeit temporarily, in Goa’s economic plans, the State needs to directs its efforts at revenue and employment generation elsewhere. The vision needs to be broadened and the implementation has to be within the legal framework so that the shocks of court judgements do not derail the economic process and progress of the State.