Herald: It’s all a bit murky

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It’s all a bit murky

27 Jan 2019 06:33am IST
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27 Jan 2019 06:33am IST
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Smalls businesses are vulnerable to major court rulings as compared to big businesses. Goa has experienced the devastating effect of a mining ban, as well as the ban on the sale of alcohol along the highways, on small businesses. The root cause of both these bans were that for several years the laws and rules were violated while the government conveniently looked the other way. Avinash Tavares takes a look at the situation

While Goa and the effected Goans are yet to recover from the economic impact of the two major bans of the past, here are some other innocent violations that someday might result in a ban by the courts and affect the livelihood of thousands of Goans.

Cooking food inside the beach shacks


According to the Goa’s beach shack policy,  beach shacks are sheds or temporary structures on the beach which are made of eco-friendly materials like bamboos/wooden poles with thatched palm leaves/ thatched bamboo and also modern material like synthetic, steel, nylon fabric etc. 

The policy also states that the activity in the beach shack shall be restricted to the sale of food items and beverages and not for any other purpose. There is no provision in the policy for preparation of food in the shack. In fact, the word “cook” or its variations do not figure in the policy. The fact that the permitted building materials are flammable, cooking at the site is a fire hazard.

In reality, almost every shack on the beaches of Goa cook food on site. The Food and Drugs Authority does not issue a FDA license to these shacks. According to the FDA officials, Shacks apply for Registration (Form A) under The Food Safety and Standard Act 2006 but do not apply for a Licence (From B) under the Act.  An FDA official informed that they cannot issue the License since cooking is not permitted on the beach.


Horticulture carts converted to permanent kiosks
The scheme of the Goa State Horticulture Development Corporation (GSHDC)was initiated to develop infrastructure for vegetable and flower cultivation in Goa. The Corporation provides one marketing outlet for every hectare of land cultivated. However, due to the lack of availability of local vegetables, the government had to import vegetables from Belgavi.
Under the scheme, the outlet has to be a cart (with wheels) and any cart that operates in a public space cannot occupy the space permanently. The owner of the cart has to bring the cart to the designated space every morning and take it way once the business is closed for the day. However, horticulture carts in Goa have not moved since the day they occupied their respective designated public space. Instead, they have been expanded and look more like a shed or a kiosk.
There is a huge demand for vegetables sold at the horticulture outlets and a small cart does not provide the storage space.  Also, if space is restricted, the outlet might not be financially viable. nonetheless, these outlets are illegal encroachers

Tourist Taxis and rent a cab/bikes parked in public spaces
Unlike yellow and black taxis which have their own notified taxi stands, tourist taxis do not have any designated taxi stands. The reason is that the taxis are not allowed to be parked in public areas. This is one of the conditions which all tourist taxi owners have to accept when they are issued a permit. The tourist taxis have to be parked at the owner’s home or any other private area.
The tourist taxis business has come a long way in the last few decades. Earlier there were relatively fewer tourist taxi operators who drove the comparatively smaller Maruti Omnis (Vans). When the cities and tourist spaces were far less congested these taxis were allowed to park in common parking spaces in cities to solicit customers.
However, officially they are not permitted to be stationed at  these parking spaces ( cities, near airports or tourist sites) which have now become grossly scarce. There is also an economic impact since many of the taxis do not pay any rent to the local body for the public space they occupy.
The rent a cab/bikes operators too are guilty of violating this rule. These commercial vehicles are parked in busy areas such as Patto in Panjim and around the municipal building in Margao, thereby reducing the available parking space which is meant for the general public.

Shops & businesses on public property
The situation of shops and business operating on public property is complex. In Margao, some gaddas/kiosks are running businesses which are either illegal (selling of tobacco near schools, makta etc) or they have encroached and expanded their kioks. In other places, businesses pay as low as Rs 10 – Rs 50 as monthly/annual rent for shops owned by the local body that were leased decades ago.
At Colva beach, the shops owned by the tourism department and leased to private individuals have been expanded to massive restaurants, and are operating even though the lease has expired. In the Panjim market, shops have been solved or sublet illegally.
Successive local and state government have ignored this issue even though local bodies are losing out on valuable revenue.

Private buses not issuing bus tickets

There are no local private buses in Goa that willingly issue bus tickets. This blatant violation has been overlooked for many years. There is no other reason for this other than evading income tax. It should be noted that local buses are exempted from GST.

But these are not the only violations in private buses. Some private buses do not ply according to their schedule especially during non-peak hours. The conductors allow passengers to violate the reserved seating provision and carry passengers beyond the permitted capacity.


Unoccupied apartment/flats and shops
Although leaving a flat of shop unoccupied is not a violation of any law, there is a significant economic loss to the local body when people buy the shops and flats but do not occupy them or rent them out. Firstly, this drives up demand and therefore the prices of flats and shops go up and it also puts pressure on scarce land.
Second, every family or business that occupies the flat/shop contributes to the local economy whether through purchase or sale of goods and services. The local body also earns one month’s rent annually if the shop/flat is rented out. More than 1 lakh flats are unoccupied today in Goa. If Rs 5000 is considered as the average rent, this implies that the local bodies around Goa are suffering a (notional) loss of around Rs 50 Crores per year.
The solution to this problem is levying a high non-occupancy tax on every unoccupied shop/flat. This will bring down the price of realestate as investors, especially with black money, will find it unviable to park their wealth in vacant flats and shops.

Slaughterhouses disposal of animal waste
Where do slaughter houses in villages dispose their animal waste? This question was raised recently in Chinchinim where an entire stretch or river has turned into a toxic cesspool filled with animal waste. However, the villagers are not able to identify which of the slaughter houses are dumping the animal waste in the river.
Interestingly, the local body, the State Pollution Control Board  and the FDA cannot seem to agree on whose responsibility it is to ensure that every slaughter house do not pollute the environment by  following the prescribed procedures of waste disposal. Other villages, including the SGPDA market in Margao, face a similar issue. If the government doesn’t address the issue and people approach the Courts, there is a real possibility of the Courts banning all slaughter houses in villages that do not have provisions for disposing animal waste in an environmentally friendly manner.

Matka / small gambling
Matka can be considered as the unofficial pass-time of the State. Although it is illegal, this does not stop people from accepting and placing matka bets on almost every populated street in Goa. But this mass organised micro gaming business comes with a heavy economic and social cost.
A law commission report in 2018 had recommended that small gaming can be permitted in the country. However, the Government of Goa is not interested in legalising the activity and neither it is interested in enforcing the ban on it. Unfortunately, hundreds of Goans are now dependent on this illegal business (along with godgod) for their livelihood.

Festival stalls operate 

without permits

In every exhibition or festival fair, there are many people from other States in India who set up stalls in these fairs. According to the GST rules, any business that is not registered in Goa and sets up a stall in an exhibition or fair anywhere in Goa has to be registered under GST. However, the State GST authorities are yet to enforce this rule. The outcome of this oversight is that the state loses out on revenue as many of the stalls, such as the Ghobi Manchurian food stalls, generate a revenue exceeding Rs 20 lakhs per annum.


Sale of retail fish in portions
Goan fish vendors and retailers have traditionally sold fish in portions (vantto). However, this system is not a standard system under the laws and rules of the Directorate of Weights and Measures. Fish is a commodity and therefore the price of fish must be fixed for a standard measure of quantity. The system of portions is highly subjective and is a violation of the consumer’s rights.
 For example, if the fish that a consumer agrees to pay Rs 500 for a vantto of small sardines fish but when she reaches home, she realises that she has been given a lesser quantity that was agreed upon, there is no way the consumer can claim that he has been cheated since the quantity of fish in a vanvaries each day and from one type of fish to any other.  However, if the fish was sold in Kilograms, the consumer can come home and measure the fish once again to verify the purchasex

Conclusion
The laws governing business have to be updated regularly to keep up with growing scale of the business and the ever changing economic and social conditions. The Goa government has to take suggestions from the stakeholders and update and streamline the dozens of laws and rules in order to protect the livelihood of small business owners and workers


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