The Department of Tourism, last Friday, constituted a flying squad to crack down on illegal activities along the North Goa tourist belt. Teams are named to keep a vigil on the coastal belt during the weekend when tourist inflow is at its peak. The system has moved sluggishly 20 days after the government issued an order cracking down on errant and undisciplined tourists, even as visitors continue their frenzy on the State's shores.
Apparently, as an afterthought, there is no seriousness behind the move because the implementation is very patchy and restricted by both manpower and time. It defeats the purpose because the scope of the order is narrowed down to only a few areas in the north beach belt. The lack of awareness and information campaign indicates that this could be just another order on paper. What the State needs is a complete cleansing. The urgency is missing as we are reaching the peak of the season.
Interestingly, while the nuisance created by tourists along the beaches is a cause of concern, there is another area that has gone unnoticed -- illegal constructions mushrooming along the beach belt. Take the case of this controversial club at Ozrant-Anjuna where the owner has gone ahead with constructing a full-fledged multi-storeyed structure against permissions obtained for a wooden structure. Sadly, the structure has come to the same place where it was razed around a year back on the court's orders of being illegal.
Illegalities and illegal constructions are coming up at a steady pace, each trying to cash in on the tourism season. If errant tourists are an irritant, illegalities are worse. The Curlies shack which was mired in controversy recently has been partly razed, but officials have gone silent on the many others in that vicinity that are criminally encroaching on to the coast. Why is enforcement engaging in selective targets?
What about beach beds? The tourism department director maintains that inspections are carried out on the beaches for deck beds, table umbrellas, tables, etc. However, every season the same story unfolds and illegalities along the coast are rampant and easily visible to the naked eye. Where are the tourism department teams?
Illegalities are thriving because there is connivance with officials within the system. The owner of the Ozrant-Anjuna club will not have the courage to erect a towering structure against the law for the fear of the consequences. Neither will others show that kind of bravado for the fear of the enforcement. Individuals get their confidence to carry out illegalities because they know that the 'system' is taken care of.
The High Court had recently asked the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority and the Anjuna-Caisua Panchayat to hold a joint inspection to identify constructions violating the coast zone regulations and to submit a report. Unfortunately, those entrusted with the job of protecting the landscape have defaulted in their duties, and the court that has, very often, been the last resort for citizens, has turned out to be the guardian of our coast once again.