The new year brought along awful stories of how pristine beaches, waterfalls, fields and any place worth visiting, were trashed by the hordes of tourists who came to let of steam after being cooped up in their homes in other parts of India. There are two parts to this issue, one, the uncouth tourist who creates a mess and then there is the local who also is not above board.
Let me start with the locals, if one goes to the less touristy beaches, fountains (zhor) or on bunds near water bodies, it is very normal to see people sitting around the parapet wall and drinking. These revelers are all locals and when they finish they leave the bottles and empty food packets around and go home. Charity begins at home and this is where we need to start, why do Goans trash Goa and how can it be stopped?
Education, and I do not mean a degree but creating awareness about this issue especially among the school kids, with the message that they should go home and ensure that their parents and friends do not litter. The second way is to have sentinels, these people can take a picture of someone creating a nuisance (i.e drinking in a public place) and upload on a website and the authorities can then despatch policemen to the site to take action. It is precisely this lack of any policing that has created this problem in the first place. The tourist is just following.
Then we come to our guests, even the fishermen or farmers, who bear the brunt of the problem created by having broken glass on the beach or in fields, avoid confronting drunk tourists or even locals because of the fear of a rowdy backlash. There have been cases reported where life guards, officials enforcing mask usage etc have been attacked.
The Government is not serious about this issue, maybe they fear that any crack down will reduce the inflow of tourists or that the booze lobby which contributes in a big way to the exchequer may not like it, as it may reduce consumption. Otherwise, why would you amend the Tourist Trade Act and make a stringent provision in 2019, where anyone drinking on beaches will be fined Rs 2000 for individuals and Rs 10000 for groups. Till date there is not much clarity on who will implement this rule and if it is being implemented at all.
When making the amendment, no consideration was given to the fact that the regular police force is already stretched and implementation cannot be done by one policeman or two. There is talk about setting up a dedicated tourist police force, so the cart has come before the horse. Going forward, the situation is going to repeated, thousands of tourists are going to descend on Goa, sooner than later. Should we not be preparing or should we allow the pathetic situation to be repeated weekend after weekend?
The Government should create a small roving task force equipped with body cameras to prevent any talk of harassment and raid the drinking spots and implement the amended act. These raids should be well publicised and even mentioned on sign boards where everyone is cautioned not to make a nuisance in public. This will send a message to all that Goa is a fun place but one needs to behave.
The other things that needs to be done to control the crowd is the fact that vehicles enter the State with passengers far in excess of their licensed capacity. So every vehicle entering the State should have passengers, equal to authorised capacity and knowing Indian ingenuity, this should be enforced even inside the State and not only at the border.
Then there is the tourist who comes to Goa, in a minibus or van with his LPG cylinder. They stop in any open field, cook, eat, drink and answer natures call in the surrounding fields and leave the place thrashed and go to the next place for another meal. LPG cylinders cannot be carried in vehicles, this rule already exists and it should be enforced again at the border, where almost no checking is done when entering. However when exiting the authorities stop vehicles to check it they are carrying liquor. If they are it really does not matter because there are many ways to make the authorities forget they saw the bottles in the first place.
If required every local body should put together a group, led by the police to enforce the required discipline. This move will overcome the current excuse that there is a shortage of staff to enforce the rules.
The biggest culprits in this messy game are the alcohol and beverage manufacturers who have decided that the glass bottles are not worth recycling, it is cheaper to fill the “spirit” in new bottles every time. This means that because there is absolutely no value for the bottles that are left wherever they are thrown. You will see “rag man” collect the plastic water and coke bottles but they ignore the glass bottles. This must change and the Goa State Pollution Control Board has to act on the manufactures under the “polluter pays” principle. Once the bottlers take responsibility for their empties, there will be a value and automatically they will be collected and returned. This will play a vital role in reduction of not only trash but also glass shards which are turning out to be deadly.
If we are to maintain the concept of GOLDEN GOA, we, the people, the Government and the tourists have to act now.
(The author prefers to write rather than chat in a balcao)