Despite assurances, this year too has seen a long delay in setting up shacks. While decks have been cleared, allottees are still grappling with systemic issues, the latest being the demarcation. On Thursday, shack operators met Chief Minister Pramod Sawant at his official residence and asked him to honour his promise of enforcing the old demarcation plan 2019-23.
Although a quick resolution was achieved by the CM, the installation of shacks is likely to be delayed further because a host of processes are yet to be complied with. For example, the operators, after the demarcation is complete, will have to apply for the consent to establish and later consent to operate.
What about sewage disposal? Fortunately, the State government has managed to resolve the vexed sewage disposal issue after it announced that small-capacity localised sewage treatment plants will be installed to manage sewage in shacks. This is a welcome move, and the government must to commended for taking seawater pollution seriously.
It may be recalled that this newspaper carried a news report on October 13 based on data released by the Central Pollution Board that said tourist-centric beaches like Miramar, Calangute, Morjim, Tiracol, Vagator, Motor, Baina, Velsao, Colva and Galgibaga are highly polluted and infested with disease-causing pathogens in seawater.
The idea to set up these localised STPs is good, but the 3-month period which the environment minister says will be needed to tender and set them up will push the shack operations further down the calendar. The government should have had a ready Plan B when it was very clear that panchayats which were entrusted with the job were unable to handle it due to logical and infrastructural issues. The plan to set up small localised plants should have been done and dusted before the start of the tourism season, and not after.
Again, the shack policy should have been ready much earlier. A policy document that sets a framework for shacks should have been finalised much earlier, and not on the eve of the season's opening. It is bizarre that a shack policy is being debated in the middle of the season.
The tourism season has already kicked off in October, and in all probability, operators will have to wait possibly till mid-December to get their businesses up and running, an over two month’s delay, if not more. The question is why are shack issues not resolved before the start of the season, and why are delays becoming yearly affairs? Whom does it help, and who is responsible? Why are shack owners reacting sporadically? Is there a political tune playing in the background? Or have shack operators been used as pawns on the tricky political chessboard?
The businesses of shack operators have been hit and revenue lost because they have missed out on charters that have arrived, let alone the hordes of desi tourists that flood the beaches. Something is going terribly wrong with the system because delays have been a noticeable constant in the changing tourism scenario of Goa. With a shack policy in place, the issues will hopefully get a burial and shack allotment henceforth will be a seamless process.