While the new shack policy has tightened the screws on illegalities and made provisions for the ‘Digital Coast’ concept, shack owners and various associations expressed their displeasure on certain clauses, forcing the government to roll back certain provisions
Goa State Beach Shack Policy 2023-2026
Last week, the State Cabinet approved the Goa Beach Shack Policy 2023-2026 by introducing 90 per cent experienced operators and 10 per cent new entrepreneurs and age limits for the applicants between 18 and 60 years. It must be noted here that no age limit was stipulated in the past shack policies.
The new policy says that 90% of the total beach shacks located at government or public beach areas shall be allotted to those applicants having minimum experience of one year or more, and the remaining 10% of the total beach shacks shall be allotted to other applicants who are without experience.
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said this was the second policy approved for next three years with provision of providing opportunities to both old operators and new entrepreneurs for erection of temporary seasonal structures on beaches across the State.
In the new policy, the government has increased the fees structure by 10% for the activities to be registered under the policy.
This new policy has introduced a strict clause to discourage allottees from sub-letting beach shacks to other people. As per the new policy, which will be in effect till 2026, and aims to boost youth engagement and tourism growth in the State, only one member from a family will be allotted a shack.
Under the earlier policy, 259 shacks were permitted on the identified beaches in North Goa while 105 shacks were permitted in South Goa. According to the new shack policy, the same number of shacks has been retained even as no shacks will now be permitted at Keri beach in Pernem taluka for the tourist season 2023-2024 as the Water Resources Department (WRD) is to take up Anti-Sea Erosion and protection work there.
Unlike the previous policy, there is a no longer a requirement to submit a demand draft as a security deposit at the time of submitting the application. Instead this deposit is necessary only after the draw of lots and solely from the successful allottees.
Rohan Khaunte, Tourism Minister said, “Additionally, successful allottees now have the option to mutually agree upon the location of their shacks among themselves and also swap locations within seven days from the draw of lots.”
He pointed out that on various occasions, the shack owners associations had raised concerns about sub-letting and emphasized the importance of providing opportunities to the locals.
He also said that along with the clause for discouraging sub-letting of shacks, the promotion of Goan cuisine is also being actively encouraged under the new policy.
Along with paving the way for thriving beach side establishments, it also seeks to empower and provide valuable opportunities to the youth of Goa.
Khaunte further stated that the implementation of the policy aims to address the issue of demographic dividend and stimulate entrepreneurial opportunities for locals and young individuals.
He also said that the Goa State Beach Shack Policy 2023-26 is a highly effective policy that enables the establishment of temporary seasonal beach shacks and placement of portable toilets, deck beds, umbrellas, tables and chairs; and all these will be permitted at the identified beach stretches, subject to the approval of the Goa State Pollution Control Board, The Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority or any other competent authorities.
“With this policy, the Goa government has demonstrated its commitment to fostering tourism, engaging the youth and driving economic growth within our picturesque state,” he said.
A condition has also been stipulated in the new document to obtain permissions/NOCs/licences, which are required from all the other departments, for the shack operation within a period of two months, after physical demarcation; failing to do so, the licence/allotment of the shack shall be cancelled.
The policy has laid down the introduction of ‘Digital Coast’ at Goan beaches where shack allottees shall be provided with Point of Sale (PoS) machines by the tourism department, which will also provide picket fences to shack operators. UPI payment facilities will have to be prominently displayed at each establishment too.
Furthermore, a provision has also been specified for scientific disposal of sewage, including black and grey water, with the help of concerned local panchayats and urban local bodies.
Shack Owners unhappy with changes in new policy
Meanwhile this policy has caused a ruckus amongst traditional shack owners whose families were behind setting up the shack business in the State and have been running it ever since. The clause which states that only those within the age of 18-60 can apply for a shack license has stunned them as majority of the shack owners are above the age of 60.
Cruz Cardozo, President of the Shack Owners Welfare Society said that due to the age clause being introduced, a total of 575 applicants will be ineligible to apply, out of which 95 are from South Goa and the remaining 480 are from North Goa. Cardozo stated that not everyone who applies for the shack is allotted one. Also the clause mentions that only one member from a family can apply for allotment, which limits them further, making it impossible in some cases for these shack owners’ families to apply for the same.
“They have said one person from one family only. So, what happens if due to this age rule, the children, be it the son or daughter, want to continue? This policy means they too will get cut out and all the experience they have won’t be considered over a technicality,” said Cruz
According to Cruz, this has discouraged the younger generation and they are not interested in applying for licenses as there is no certainty of getting a license in the next policy cycle. Other veteran shack owners added that this business needs guarantees as they invest heavily and need to recoup over the years.
Further, the shack owners said despite being assured to be taken into confidence over any major changes along with other shareholders, the same did not happen. Cruz mentioned that the policy was formulated without discussing or informing them about the various changes being introduced.
State Government relaxes age limit in new policy
Various shack owners had approached their respective MLAs with regards to the changes and additions in the policy who in turn approached the government. Giving in to pressure, from the shack owners as well as other MLAs, the State Government was forced to modify and effectively roll back the provision in the new shack policy, regarding the age criteria which debarred shack owners from applying for a license.
Khaunte said that age restrictions in the new policy were eased. “Even if the shack owner is above 60 years old, he can apply and let his next generation carry forward the business. His experience will be counted along with his father’s.”
Further, he said that the idea behind age relaxation was to prevent the subletting of shacks to others. He, however, pointed out that in the past total number of applications, which were 60 and above, was 194 and only 90 were allotted through lot system.
Khaunte informed that there would be a separate policy for private shacks which will be introduced within a month. On subletting of shacks, he warned that the fine has been increased from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 25 lakh.
Michael Lobo, MLA of Calanagute said that the emphasis on Goan cuisine is the best thing about the policy as many shacks had introduced other cuisines while not having a single Goan dish on their menu.
Venzy Viegas, MLA of Benaulim stated that while the idea behind introducing the age limit was to discourage sub-letting of shacks, it remains to be seen how the idea will pan out.
Cruz Cardozo meanwhile thanked the Tourism Minister and the government, for the policy and assured them that the policy would be complied with.
“There were certain shortcomings which we brought to his notice and they were sorted out. We had a problem with the age limit but that is sorted out now,’’ said Manuel Cardozo, President of the Traditional Shacks Owners’ Association (TSOA).
The policy is a win-win situation for both the youth and tourists, as it not only empowers young entrepreneurs but also enhances the overall tourist experience, making Goa a top choice for travelers seeking a peaceful, relaxed holiday on Goa’s beautiful beaches along with a taste of the state’s distinct culture.