Time to call the bluff
Right from the Hippy days, the problem of tourists caring a hoot for the Law of the Land had been a headache for the State. Last year, six Uzbek women on tourist visas were held for prostitution. Notwithstanding the arrests, early this year, four Ukrainian women braved sub-zero temperatures to go topless, climb the balcony of the Indian envoy’s residence in Kiev with placards denouncing the Indian government’s tightening of visa rules, which was a direct sequel to the involvement of Uzbek women in alleged prostitution. The report suggested that the tightening of visas was being done to keep sex workers away from entering India. In February, Shantram Naik, MP raised the issue of Russians and Israelis as having ‘occupied’ certain coastal villages in Goa” in a manner which cannot be called ideal tourism”. His statement stemmed from the fact that they indulged in business activities in violation of the laws of the land.
Recent trends indicate increasing instances of younger generation tourists/foreigners resorting to sex-oriented business in Goa. Reports of frequent police raids and arrests of women involved in sex trade carried on under the garb of massage and beauty parlours confirm this trend. It cannot be denied that Goa is witnessing an influx of questionable female `tourists’ not just from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Chechnya and Kyrgyzstan apart from other parts of our country, but even from the more affluent parts of Europe.
The Church in Goa has repeatedly claimed that the large chunk of Israelis visiting Goa is dehumanized and that their arrival is detrimental to locals. This had an immediate reaction from the Israeli lobby which termed the sentiments as ant-Semitic. Such reactions are expected considering that Israelis are looked at with disdain world-wide for the injustice inflicted on Palestinians. Today, there’s a new trend to form enclaves by tourists. The host community has been reduced to spectator status, having little role to play and therefore getting only marginal benefits from tourism. Small wonder, locals are reluctant to rent out rooms to Israelis.
The recent study by the Seminarians of Rachol also exposes Israelis getting involved in running the Tourism business. This is evidently against the Visa Rules, but they manage to hoodwink the Regulators. Their involvement in the flea markets has led to other foreigners also dominating the markets, with locals benefiting only in terms of rent collected from lease of land used for the market.
Last fortnight when the Church in Goa issued a statement in support of the Palestinian cause it was again termed as anti-Semitic. The Ukrainian women too feel that they were victimized.
In such a situation it is imperative that the Government conduct a study on tourists’ conduct in Goa . Tourism was promoted in Goa primarily as a non-polluting economic activity. If the net result is to deprive the local youth of their means of livelihood and to spread cult of drugs and sex, we might as well do without it. Tourists are not making Goa beautiful. It is Goa’s beauty which brings the tourists here. The Jewish lobby while castigating the church for its study on Israelis in Goa has claimed that while the Church finds fault with the Israelitourists, the State is a beneficiary of the Israelis visiting the State via the tourism route. This argument cannot be accepted at face value. Tomorrow, the flesh trade may also claim that hotel revenue is increasing because of their presence, and therefore their activities should be condoned. It is time the State Government conducts an independent study on the tourists’ behavioral pattern in the state apart from determining the benefits accrued to the State. It’s time to call the bluff.