New Delhi, Feb 28 (Calcutta Tube) Goa plans to reclaim its tourist paradise image – tarnished by rapes and other crimes against foreign nationals – by deploying a tourist protection force, opening fast-track courts and banning bikini-clad women on advertisements.
The Goa government is in the process of setting up a Goa Tourism Security Force, to be manned by ex-servicemen, to safeguard tourists who visit Goa and fast-track courts to expedite hearing of cases of crimes against foreign nationals.
The state administration had come under severe criticism from all quarters after a string of rape incidents involving foreign nationals during the year, including a recent case where a nine-year Russian girl was allegedly raped.
‘The state government has already woken up to the issue and has taken necessary steps. They have approved a special tourism security force, consisting of ex-servicemen from the army who have retired after short service commission,’ Swapnil Naik, director of Goa Tourism, told IANS in a telephone interview from Panaji.
‘The government has taken action, even in some cases where politicians were involved. The law has taken its course and that has brought reassurance to foreigners,’ added Naik.
Other than policing all the major tourist locations, the government is also mulling fast-track courts to hear crimes against foreign tourists and has put two recent alleged rape cases involving Russian nationals on fast track immediately.
But the state as well as tour operators think the state of law and order in Goa has been blown out of proportion.
‘There were three incidents last year. Since there were 2.5 million visitors (global and domestic), this is a very small percentage. But everybody is writing about the crimes only, not about the happy faces that had a nice time,’ said Ralph De Souza, president of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa.
‘We have had enquiries from overseas following such reports, but the steps taken by the government has calmed them. Moreover, the police too have become very vigilant. They know people are watching,’ said De Souza.
The state, on the other hand, has gone a step ahead and decided to ban scantily clad women on government-sponsored advertisements, as according to them it will help in negating any wrong impression about the place.
‘Tourists should take care of the culture of the place and try to dress up as per the culture. Some of the incidents which have happened have not involved locals but domestic tourists. So you have to take care of the overall culture of the country as a whole,’ said Naik.
Also tourists wanting to visit the famed churches of Goa or any other religious spot will have to be ‘properly dressed’ because otherwise they may be denied entry to such a place.
‘This is also to ensure that people don’t develop a negative picture of Goa — the everything is allowed in Goa kind of perception,’ said Naik.
(James Jose can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)