ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Reclaiming Goa

A socio-economy overly dependent on tourism largely explains Goa's blemishes.

Over the last decade, the image of Goa as a tourism paradise blessed with great scenic beauty and a genial local population, and with the added bonus of cheap liquor and the famed Goan cuisine, has been coming under increasing strain. Tension has been simmering for some years now between the local population and the Israeli and Russian tourists accused of setting up exclusive “enclaves” in Goa where Indians are not welcome, and running real estate cartels and drug and prostitution rackets. The Indian media, in fact, refers blithely to the “Israeli mafia” and “Russian mafia” that use Goans as fronts to run beach shacks, eateries and cafes and hold benami ownership of land and houses, while a venal police force does nothing. Goan politicians periodically fan public anger every time a crime involving foreigners becomes public, followed by calls from local citizens’ bodies to ban foreigners. This time around, the flashpoint for the tediously familiar litany occurred following the murder of a Nigerian youth in Parra. On 31 October, over 200 Nigerians blocked the highway at Porvorim in north Goa for a few hours angered by what they termed was the indifference of the police towards the murder and the melee that ensued made national headlines.

While the buying up of Goan properties by foreigners in violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) or with Goan names on paper has been going on for a long time and has been the subject of much public debate, the latest Nigerian fracas has also taken on strong political overtones. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Goa, headed by Manohar Parrikar, took over in 2012 from the Congress. He not only accused the centre of mishandling the latest crisis (the Nigerian foreign minister warned of reprisals against Indians in Nigeria if Nigerians were “harassed” in Goa) but of also not deputing the required number of Indian Police Service (IPS) officers to his state despite repeated demands, thus affecting the law and order situation. His supporters insist that the drug mafia-police-politician nexus began in Goa during Congress rule. Other politicians openly accused the Nigerians of being drug peddlers and overstaying beyond their visa periods with false papers. Predictably enough, this set off allegations of racism. Before this too, politicians, sections of the media and the Church in Goa have castigated sections of the Israeli and Russian tourists for destroying Goan language and culture, buying up real estate and creating enclaves (especially in Morjim, Vagator, Arambol, Calangute and Anjuna), and indulging in anti-social behaviour, like rave parties. The public indignation excited by the escape of the Israeli Yaniv Benaim alias Atala (he was later brought back from Peru), who was the prime accused in the drug peddler-police nexus case, and the video link posted on a social media website, where he speaks of politicians supporting the drug cartels, is still fresh in the public mind.

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