Goa has over different periods of time been a destination for many things. It has been called 365 days a year holiday destination, a wedding destination, a conferences and meetings destination, a destination for hippies and the free-spirited, and even a yoga and wellness destination.
This week another “feather” was added to Goa’s destination cap. The Chief Minister of Goa said, “People from other States come to Goa to set up their crime business.”
The CM is however mindful of the detrimental impact of Goa getting such an image and is expected to send a message to course correct the comfortable feeling of criminal elements setting up shop in Goa and letting the law come down heavily on them because the situation is alarming.
While ease of doing legitimate business is good for the State, what does ease of doing crime business in a State indicate? The natural inference is that either the rule of law does not exist or those setting up businesses do not care about the rule of law and the efficiency of the law-and-order machinery.
The big question: Why do those committing crimes feel comfortable in a place?
There are three specific reasons
-Key institutions like the police and investigative agencies are politically caged
-Politically-appointed officials handle investigations based on the power and connections of accused
-Local bodies allow rampant illegalities like encroachment, hill cutting, and running of illegal businesses
Let’s look at some examples of how small countries approach law, order and crime management
Singapore: There is a 100% police presence coupled by volunteer police officers and Citizens-on-Patrol. Cameras are everywhere. Punishments are very tough. There is a fine of $1000 just for littering and drug pushers are sentenced to hang. Rapists, molesters, robbers, drug users and vandals are caned
Dubai: The Dubai Police has recorded zero serious crimes in three years in a report on April 2022. There is zero organised crime and absolutely impossible to bypass the system by anyone indulging in criminal activity.
When Herald exposed the recent incident of massive hill cutting and destruction of trees and greenery for a totally illegal suspected nightclub with a foreign DJ effectively running it, it is a panchayat member of Anjuna who came to the Herald reporter during a suite inspection to say, “Do not drag the case”.
Isn’t it deeply disturbing that a people’s body meant to protect village land is asking a newspaper reporter not to drag a case, who is reporting about illegalities which the panchayat should act upon?
The big irony: Goa becoming a destination for crime is painfully true
What is worrisome though is that it is difficult to dismiss the statement about Goa becoming a destination for the crime business. At the same time, the definition or references to crime cannot be linked only to robbery, theft, or murder. It extends to the trade and commerce of drugs, grabbing of land, violating the environment and its laws with absolute impunity, indulging in real estate scams, and above all, allowing and covering up alleged corruption at every level from the panchayat to the highest levels of governance.
When drug mules are caught with fifty-plus crores of cocaine at Delhi or Mumbai airports, their destination is almost always Goa; drug operations are being run from jails and well-known people in the Goan nightlife industry who run premier night clubs and shacks are under arrest for being players in the Goa drug market. Are all these players from other States who have come to set up businesses?
Herald opened the Pandora's box of cases where ancestral land and home of Goans were taken and illegally sold by a gang of fraudsters in connivance with revenue officers, through forgery and duplicity, it was clear that locals were involved in this crime, which saw other sons and daughters of the soil lose their life’s assets.
The definition of crime needs to be naturally expanded to corruption
The Lokayukta officially the anti-corruption ombudsman of any State and government, is still waiting to see at least some of its recommendations and suggestions on actions against corrupt practices be implemented. In 2020, the outgoing Goa Lokayukta Justice (Retired) Prafulla Kumar Misra said he was “completely disenchanted” with the lack of action on even one of the 21 reports that he submitted against public functionaries during his nearly four-and-a-half-year tenure as the Lokayukta.
He while speaking to Indian Express also said, “If you ask me in one sentence my experience in dealing with these complaints as Lokayukta in Goa, I will say they should abolish the institution of Lokayukta.”
“Why should public money be spent for nothing? If the Lokayukta Act is being thrown into the dustbin with such force, then it’s better to abolish the Lokayukta,” Justice Misra said. There isn’t much to add after this remark by the then Lokayukta himself.
The only way, Goa will not be attractive to the crime business is if criminals fear the system
There is also a touch of irony that official circles even in Maharashtra, Bihar, or Uttar Pradesh have never spoken about people coming to their States to set up crime businesses. All three States have historically had crime syndicates covering all forms of crime of a scale that would make Goa look like an idyllic, peaceful, and crime-free paradise.
But even in these places, there is fear of the system, which can come down heavily. Goa needs to give confidence to those who want to open offices, set up ventures, and give jobs, that law, and order can be taken for granted. When it is said that criminals come to set up businesses in Goa, that confidence takes a blow.
There is no other alternative, therefore, but to ensure that professional forces, especially those in uniform are free and confident to work without political or any other interference. Rogue officers must be identified and booked and sent to jail under criminal charges and the unholy nexus between the drug lobby and the system must be broken.
The rot is deep-rooted and entrenched. It will need leadership, vision, and will to cleanse this and the Chief Minister has a great chance to do it. If he does, he will leave a legacy behind.