St Xavier feast: Police clear air on ID proof for devotees



Security measures during the Novenas leading up to the Feast of St Francis Xavier at Old Goa are set to include the use of drones and X-Ray baggage scanners. 

With over a lakh pilgrims/visitors expected, the Goa Police have put in place a watertight security arrangement with heavy police presence and round-the-clock surveillance from November 24-night to ensure the safety of the UNESCO World Heritage site and the people.

Regarding the Goa Police’s latest security advisory emphasizing carrying of ID proofs for access to Churches, the department revealed that these checks will be random and there will be flexibility to present either physical or soft copies of identification.

Superintendent of Police (North Goa) Nidhin Valsan assured round-the-clock police deployment from November 24.

“We will ensure there is no inconvenience caused to any person and the entire process is carried out smoothly all through the Novenas and the Feast,” he said, on being contacted by The Goan for a comment on police preparedness.

As many as 250 armed staff will be deployed in each of the two shifts at the venue, accompanied by the continuous presence of one Superintendent of Police and Deputy Superintendent of Police.

In a precautionary measure with more security personnel than the previous year, special Anti-Terrorist Squad commandos and plainclothes officials will also be posted.

Stringent measures regarding belongings inside the Churches include a prohibition on baggage, handbags, and additional luggage. Another senior officer said that X-ray baggage machines will be stationed for thorough screening.

Drones play a pivotal role in monitoring the movement of visitors within the Old Goa police station jurisdiction, covering the Basilica of Bom Jesus and St Cathedral Church premises.

Highlighting the need for ID proofs, either physical or soft copies, sources revealed these will be randomly checked during visits to both Churches.

“It's going to be a collective effort including advanced technology and increased personnel to ensure the safety and security of the large influx of pilgrims/visitors, Churches, and adjoining areas during this period,” the source said.

In view of the occasion, the Old Goa Police on Wednesday conducted a mock drill and captured two dummy terrorists while neutralizing one dummy bomb in the bag, kept near the Basilica of Bom Jesus Church. Besides the police team, the ATS, Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad, Dog Squad, Fire & Emergency Services, and Health Department participated in the exercise.

“At that time, around 800 people including tourists and devotees were safely taken out in seven minutes, without any panic. The drill concluded in 22 minutes,” the Old Goa police said while briefing about the outcome of the exercise. 

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