Robberies in Goa have been common in Goa, with assailants making residences and shops their prime targets under the cover of darkness. However, what is shocking is robbers resorting to guns. On Monday, three robbers attempted to break into an unoccupied bungalow near the MES College area at Sancoale. The police, who swiftly made their presence at the spot after receiving a call from a neighbour, came into the line of fire after the robbers shot rounds at them. Despite a gallant effort from the men in uniform, the culprits managed to make good their escape after abandoning the bike they were riding and went landwards towards Zuarinagar.
If we may recall, December 2017 saw a daring daylight bank robbery with a gang of armed men storming into the premises and decamping with Rs 13 lakh cash at gunpoint. Two gunmen were eventually nabbed by people metres away from the bank and beaten black and blue.
Goa has witnessed thefts and robberies even in broad daylight, but the State remains new to the gun culture. In an age of CCTV footage and heightened surveillance where anti-socials and goondas no longer flex muscle but prefer to aim for a kill, robbers, with guns in tow, could change the ways of their business too. This would be terrifying because gun culture means bloodshed and casualties. The police who were chasing the robbers at Sancoale showed bravado and faced the fire, and while one policeman narrowly missed a bullet, a constable sustained an injury after a bullet ricocheted off the road and hit his knee.
While people can be rendered helpless when armed robbers strike, the Sancoale incident brings to the fore the utmost need to have quick response teams, nakabandis and direct police contact available to those in distress. While people may panic, they could at least hold on to the hope of police rescue. More importantly, night patrolling, which had taken prominence during the regime of Manohar Parrikar, has to be re-introduced and reinforced. Police patrolling could be the only deterrent for robbers on the prowl. The only question here is whether our police force on night patrol is equipped to handle armed assailants or whether they are sitting ducks.
Secondly, Goa faces a piquant situation because of the many “locked houses”. The Sancoale house was not occupied for a long time, and this was the second robbery attempt in less than three years. The Sancoale incident must also be a wake-up call to those who leave their residences locked and unoccupied. While unoccupied residences have been prime targets, the police must undertake an inventory of all such houses that have been closed for a substantial time. Real estate has been booming in Goa, with thousands of non-Goans choosing to buy flats and villas and either renting them or using them as holiday retreats. Add to this the rising out-migration, with Goans taking Portugal citizenship to settle in European countries and keeping their houses locked.
There may not be enough reason to scream of lawlessness and break down of law and order, but the Sancoale incident could be an eye-opener against what Goa may see in the years ahead. It’s time to brace up to face the brutal change that the State is gradually undergoing.