Musical brand

Vice-ridden mass tourism is disrupting the Goa brand

Sep 12, 2022 | 04:53 IST

Vice-ridden mass tourism is disrupting the Goa brand

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho

“Jungle raj in sunshine State”, headlines a national business daily. Our state is in the news again for all the wrong reasons. The BJP may find it difficult to admit the death of one of its leaders as a case of drug overdose. The Hyderabad Narcotics Wing has openly accused the Goa Police of not cooperating in the investigation of drug-related cases.More than a decade ago, a Nigerian national Obodo Simeon was killed and the Then-CM Manohar Parrikar admitted that he was a victim of the war between two drug gangs. Has anything changed since?

Goa has always welcomed tourists. Its sun, sand and sea have always attracted national and international travelers. Domestic tourists rave about Goa. Tourism is the lifeline of the state contributing nearly 40% of the state’s GDP. Our state has opted for mass tourism. We bypassed all rules, regulations and laws for this. We are proud of the increase in attendance. Pristine beaches are no longer the driving force of the tourism sector. Our roads are congested every Saturday as young tourists come here in search of a new weekend life and the wealthy are here to gamble in the casinos. Casinos and nightlife are the new drivers of the tourism sector.

You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that mass tourism brings vice. The sex trade is not limited to red light areas and what is drug-free nightlife? Sleaze, sex and drugs are still big drivers of the tourism industry, especially in third world countries. The growth of illegal massage parlors, prostitution rackets, and “escort” services associated with freely available drugs has brought this state into disrepute. It may have started in the sixties in the Anjuna-Vagator belt where “hippies” found a place beyond normal society to live without the inhibitions of life. What started in the 60s seems to be continuing. The rise of the hippies has also brought with it the fun-seeking rave culture. The National Bureau of Criminal Records for 2020 highlighted that sex tourism in Goa is the highest in the country (per capita).

All governments in Goa endorse casinos and nightlife as the driving factors of our economy. The nightlife is known for its rave nights where MDMA, a popular “club drug,” is freely available for heightened sensation, more energy, and better enjoyment. EDM festivals may be legal, but these festivals are more synonymous with rave culture where illegal drugs are the order of the day. What makes a music festival illegal are the illegal activities associated with rave culture. By their very nature, rave culture is shrouded in secrecy due to illegal drug use and underground organizing. Law enforcement failed to deal with the drug threat. The United Kingdom considered that the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 which prohibited parties featuring “sounds characterized by the emission of a succession of the same rhythms” was not sufficient and opposed the Entertainment Act and increased penalties for organizing illegal rave parties. The United States passed the Reducing Americans Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act (RAVE) in 2022, to fine and imprison rave owners, promoters and event organizers who fail to prevent drug-related offenses. dope. These draconian measures against freedom of speech, the right to dance and musical expression in liberal societies were necessitated by drug overdose and associated medical risks caused by using ecstasy and his cousin Molly every year at raves that law enforcement struggles to deal with. with.

The Union Tourism Minister has claimed that Goa is the casino capital of the country. Our governments promote nightlife and EDM festivals that are often associated with illegal drugs. EDM music festivals legitimize “rave culture” through government approvals. The government also cannot be blamed for failing to establish alternative sources of revenue generation. Even the late Manohar Parrikar who rose to power opposing the casinos under local pressure changed his mind.

The rampant growth of tourism in a small state of about 16 million people has overwhelmed the state. It looks like there is 100% growth despite the pandemic. Even when the country was under lockdown, Goa raved. Under immense pressure from social media, local police, who would normally look the other way, broke up four rave parties held in the northern coastal belt.

The curse has affected the North more. The south and the hinterland remain rustic, peaceful and calm. There are attempts to bring vice to these untapped areas through ‘backcountry tourism’, ‘ecotourism’ and ‘forest tourism’. If this materializes, the entire state would have a nightlife that the government says needs to be exploited for higher incomes. The nightlife has its own impact on the local population. Over time, the locals also develop a strong appetite for the vice of gambling in the casinos, the squalor and sex resulting from the nightlife. See what happened in Thailand or the Philippines.

We might not like to admit it, this tiny state is increasingly seen as a destination for sex tourism and recent incidents only show that Anjuna-Calangute-Vagator is a drug haven. Nightlife, sex tourism, the threat of drugs may be here to stay for a long time. Locals have also developed vested interests in this vice-bound mass tourism. It is our responsibility to oppose all of Goa gaining sin city status.

Goa is on the verge of losing its brand value. We have to make clear choices – whether we want to continue to be the playground of vice just to increase attendance or achieve a new and better image. Does the CM listen?

(The author is a practicing lawyer and a seasoned law professor)