23 Jun 2024  |   04:16am IST

Tourism solutions require State, local coordination

The resolution passed by the Calangute panchayat has sparked a debate on various fronts including the powers of the panchayat, the legality of such a fee, the impact on tourism and above all whether this is the solution to the unruly tourists flocking to the State. The panchayat has sent a proposal to the government and administration, including the Collector and the police, to erect entry check-posts on the borders of the village and charge an entry fee to those who do not have accommodation booked in one of the most well-known beaches in the country. 

The Calangute Sarpanch has said that the idea of charging a fee to enter the village is because of the nuisance created by tourists coming in by vehicles, who cook on the roadside, litter the beach and leave surrounding areas with empty alcohol bottles and defecate and urinate in the open fields. His angst indicates the frustrating scenario of the unruly behaviour of tourists, which has over some time become a common sight across the State’s tourist attractions. Despite laws in place, tourists, especially domestic, continue to create commotion on the streets and beaches of Goa.  

After the closure of mining activity in the State, the tourism industry was considered to be the most dependable industry and was expected to emerge as the backbone of the Goan economy. However, the State has been unable to tap the potential, and the irregularities and lack of implementation of laws by the government departments and the police have led to the chaotic situation that has forced the Calangute panchayat to opt for an unprecedented step. 

The State government has been appointing agencies to keep the beaches and the approach roads clean by awarding beach cleaning contracts from time to time. The last tender expired at the end of the tourism season in 2023, and a new contract is yet to be awarded. The responsibility of keeping the village area clean lies on the panchayat for which it collects fees from the commercial establishments and houses within their jurisdictions. Has the Tourism Department or the Directorate of Panchayats carried out an audit of the cleaning contracts awarded by the department or the panchayats? Annually, crores of rupees are spent on waste management by the State through various agencies and yet the streets are full of black spots with heaps of garbage lying on the roadside. As far as unruly behaviour is concerned, the law to prevent littering in public spaces envisages a fine of Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000. However, the lack of implementation of the law has meant giving a free hand to anti-social elements. Similar is the case with those couth tourists who drive their vehicles on the beaches.

The North Goa beach belt has submerged into illegalities, from the easy availability of drugs and noise pollution to illegal constructions on the beachfront. The existing laws need a more stringent implementation if these problems plaguing the tourism industry and the villages need to be weeded out. The proposal by the Calangute panchayat is bound to open a pandora’s box which could have a ripple effect across the State. 

The hinterland areas which are frequented by Goans are also facing similar issues. Drinking, littering the place with alcohol bottles and unruly behaviour under the influence of alcohol is witnessed even at places which are accessed only by Goans. Will the panchayats in these areas too be allowed to implement such a fee or tax? 

One of the common problems in the State is the lack of infrastructure to address the various problems. These places lack the number of dustbins to dispose of thrash, the agencies awarded the contract have failed to do their job, the local self-governing bodies do not collect the existing taxes and are often surrounded by allegations of corruption. The tourism industry, the goose that lays golden eggs needs to be saved. There is growing desperation amongst Goans, and the only way to find solutions is for the State government and the local bodies – municipalities and panchayats – to work in coordination and implement the existing laws in letter and spirit.

IDhar UDHAR

Idhar Udhar