We are in the habit of killing the goose that lays the golden egg. I think that the reduced state in which Goa finds itself today has a lot to do with unregulated tourism that has been happening over a rather lengthy period of time.
Never in my life have I seen so many tourists (mostly maskless) literally in my face (always masked) than recently. This time, they left us a return gift. Now why blame them alone for the spread of Covid? Have you seen our undisciplined Goans going to buy fish and mangoes throwing social distancing to the wind, said some, who were watching the markets so closely that they missed the beaches.
We are so over-dependent on tourism that we were ready to have death at the doorstep, in order to have food on our table.
It indicates that there is no plan B for Goa to prosper and survive if tourism flounders. It has no doubt generated a lot of (low-level) jobs but actually improved the quality of life for only a few people.
Admitted, it has positively contributed to the idea that the taxi service operating on the airport and hotel route is now a ‘traditional occupation’. But the local Goan cannot afford its own local taxi service. Tourism has made things so expensive that even the well-spending quality tourists have gone elsewhere, while the residents are left to cope with the price rise.
We have the low spending tourists, driving down in their own cars and staying in them as well and holidaying in a Goa that is somewhat degraded to suit their tastes, interests and idea of Goa. When I learn about the places they visit and the things they do, I wonder if I am staying in another alternate universe of Goa. Seriously, we think to introspect whether tourism will sink us or save us down the line.
And as I am on this topic, might I add the influx of neo-Goan residents. Do not google this word but you need to google Shobha De’s ‘Where has the old Goa gone?’, written as recently as February 2021.
Pick up any lifestyle magazine, one will come across the ultra posh Goan holiday homes bought at an exorbitant price, making it the next Monte Carlo, a playground for the boastful rich and famous Indian. Read on social media the promotions of the numerous restaurants, boutique hotels, shops and mostly creative businesses set up, one will hardly come across any local entrepreneur in these ventures.
Always adding Goa as part of their essential description about their enterprises proves that the state has brand value and is a selling point in itself. Since a year, work from home has become work from Goa. Make no mistake, all are welcome to visit, stay, work or set up businesses, regardless. In fact, there is much to learn from those who have so much passion for Goa to make it their base.
At the same time, one also has to be realistic and practical. Goa is just 105 kms in length and 60 kms in width. You can easily go from one end of the state to the other, such is the limited resources and space among other things. Today, young local families cannot afford to buy homes. It is a struggle for the enterprising Goan to rent out business spaces that comes at a premium price.
Finally, everything boils down to money and goes to the highest bidder, usually from outside the state. Nowhere else in the country will one find such a trend. The feeling of subtle resentment has begun with words like ‘bhaile’ coming up in conversations.
The 105 kms is already filling up fast and there has to be some thought given to the extent to which Goa can afford to accommodate everyone wishing to stay here without anyone feeling displaced.
Devoid of tourists right now, the silence on the beaches is almost a pleasure that resembles the peaceful Goa of the past. Goa needs a solution that is amicable and accommodating to all communities existing here.
After all, if Goa is still standing together today it is because people of all communities from across the country have come together to take care of each other. It did not matter whether one was Goan or non-Goan, Indian or not, finally we were just people needing the human touch. This has to be much acknowledged and appreciated that we had each other’s back.
To make Goa one’s ultimate destination is understandable. Besides its beautiful topography and interesting history, the very hospitable nature of its people has also has taken the State to the peak of its fame. The identity of the people is the identity of the State. Goa needs be able to strike a balance wisely here. If not, years down the line, one may end up being a minority in one’s own State. Like the rest of our country, we have to own our tag line, that there is unity in diversity. We have huge responsibility towards our beloved Goa that along with the diversity, our Goem, Goemkar and Goemkarponn is also secure. Viva Goa!
(The writer is Associate Professor, Dept of Psychology at St Xavier’s College)