I recently came across a post on social media deriding tourists who come to Goa and cook on the roads and leave their trash behind. This time it was a tourist bus which made a halt at the gates of a school in Panaji and its passengers were busy making and serving breakfast to one another – right there on the road.
The next day, this news along with pictures was carried in some local newspapers; and the radio, too asked their listeners to air out their views on the subject.
Understandably, there was angst and ire on social media. There was also a view that Goa should not entertain ‘such’ tourists. By that one could surmise that ‘low budget tourists’ are unwelcome to the state. Someone also said that other travel destinations in the country and abroad have seasons where they open up to high-end tourists and balance it with low-enders in the off-season.
The issue to me is not as black and white as it appears – although one is left seething at the audacity of these travellers who have scant care for cleanliness, hygiene and social mores of the place that they travel to. And somehow Goa has been at the receiving end of this, for far too long.
But, since we have positioned ourselves as a ‘tourist state’, we don’t have much to complain about.
In simple words, we cannot choose the people who wish to travel to Goa. Besides, who will sit in judgment to decide which tourist to allow in the state, and which not to?
By the mere sound of this itself, one would be infringing upon the fundamental right of an Indian to move around or travel anywhere s/he chooses to in this country.
Should economic indicator be the only yardstick by which one measures ‘high-end’ tourists, then one should see the flightloads of casino tourists who descend on the state, mostly over weekends.
The other suggestion that was canvassed was to levy a ‘heavy’ entry tax to vehicles that carry ‘low end’ tourists during season time. Indians being jugaadoos by nature would beat this by having a transport partner available on this side of the border while ‘people’ would walk in undeterred into Goa.
However, nothing and nobody can stop the state from enacting laws and regulations that make it a criminal offence to cook on public thoroughfares; or dispense garbage in public spaces.
We do have a law in place which prohibits people from consuming alcohol in areas outside a restaurant or pub – which would mean sitting with a bottle or mug in your hand on a beach, or by the roadside. But we see this happening all the time. And this law is broken more by the well-heeled citizens, than their economically challenged brethren. There is no consistent policing on this. Every day one notices broken beer bottles at the beach or on footpaths. There is also not much done to disseminate information and the consequences of breaking this law, to citizens of the state.
The moot issue is to adhere to hygiene and cleanliness across Goa; and not to allow travellers to use the state as a garbage bin – or to take local sensibilities for granted.
It would then also merit the state to provide and designate spaces where some tourists could use the same to cook their food. Although, the thrust of tourism is to provide employment and business opportunities to local restaurants, cafes and hotels; it could very well be the case that some travellers may choose to cook for themselves.
Very often, we look down upon Indian travellers. There are so many cases of foreign tourists who travel to Goa, especially on charters, who are known to pack items from their free buffet breakfast and have it for lunch, wherever they travel. There are lots of instances of foreign tourists who run businesses in the state without having the permit to do so.
We cannot turn away anyone who wishes to visit Goa. But of course, we can put in systems to regulate the way they behave in our land