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HomeFocusDe-Addicting Goa 2.0: A Step towards a Drug-Free Society

De-Addicting Goa 2.0: A Step towards a Drug-Free Society

While such campaigns are necessary on a regular basis to have the issue gaining top priority all along; without the collaboration of like-minded people however, this is an onerous task. Nonetheless, a step at a time should produce the desired results.

 

– Pachu Menon

A couple of youngsters from SIO (Goa Zone) visited me the other day and apprised me of the organization’s campaign to bring about awareness about substance abuse among the youth in Goa today.

Identifying the cause that ultimately leads to addiction amongst youngsters, the campaign aims to focus its efforts on eradicating the malaise of drugs from educational institutions – and ultimately from the society!

The state is well and truly in the clutches of a malady much worse than the epidemic which threatens it from time-to-time. It is however the evident lack of concerted efforts by authorities at ridding the society of this blight that is more concerning.

Last week, Goa’s Anti-Narcotic Cell laid claims to the year’s largest drug haul, netting a huge quantum valued at over Rs 1 crore. A Russian has been arrested in Morjim on charges of allegedly smuggling drugs for distribution during parties.

It is however the revelation by the ANC that the Russian national had brought in this huge quantity of drugs with the intention to supply and distribute during the ongoing tourist season within the party circuit that reinforces one’s belief about the precarious state of affairs that has come to describe the tourism in the state today.

This coastal paradise, the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ as they call it, has been enjoying the status of a global tourist destination for decades now. Tourism is its primary industry.

A surreal ambience amidst swaying palms and the vibrant sea, Goa has had much to offer visitors thronging its shores. However, as a tourist haven, it has evolved over the years to an extent that even the locals are appalled by the metamorphosis that is taking place.

The changing urban – and the rural, of late – settings speak for the transformation that has drastically altered its landscape. Barring a few genuine ones who are drawn to the state by its serene locations, visitors are no more enamoured by the traditional variety of tourism that has beaches, temples and churches in Goa which showcase the rich heritage and culture of the region.

While there has been enough scope for Goa to promote travel and leisure industry in the state by diversifying into other facets of tourism, the region has been slowly drawn into a situation where it’s notoriety as a ‘vice haven’ more than its picturesque topographical settings are attracting visitors in recent times.

As a popular tourist destination across the globe, Goa has attracted all kinds of people from celebrities to beachcombers and an equal share of visitors, especially foreigners, with dubious credentials.

Besides being touted as everyone’s party place, the tiny coastal state is also gaining fame as the entertainment destination of India. But it is the dark side of this littoral paradise as a tourist destination that is gaining unwarranted attention these days.

Just as the region is famous for its beaches and places of worship, the easy availability of drugs and the chance to ‘experiment’ with them has brought it infamy.

A recent trend where ‘weekend tourism’ sees young crowds flocking to the state to enjoy its ‘hospitality’ may have opened up new business avenues for locals. However, it is observed that their quick tour is not limited to places of tourist interest.

The spate of suspected drug overdose deaths reported more-or-less regularly serves to be a grim reminder about the fact that narcotics substances are indeed a priority during these Goa-jaunts for the youth.

It is claimed that Goa is home to some of the best rave parties in the country. The news that the local police busted a number of rave parties when India was under lockdown during the COVID-pandemic should give one an indication of the craze these parties generate.

Electronic Dance Music festivals and beach shack parties along the beach stretches in North Goa are some of the venues frequented by young tourists during their merrymaking spree.

The belief that ‘where there is music, there is possibility of drugs and over-consumption of liquor’ which has prompted the police to ensure that the time limit prescribed is adhered to has however not deterred revellers from crowding around such locations looking out for some action and adventure.

An article very relevant to the subject under discussion mentions about sociologist Ganesh Somayaji who, it said, believed that Goa’s policy of allowing tourist activities at night is sending out a wrong message to the world.

“Tourists feel that it’s a place of merrymaking without restraint. But in reality, Goa is an orthodox and closed society.”

Despite several attributes which give Goa its unique identity, it is however the ‘Susegado’ culture that comes across as the right description of its people and their attitude.

Hence it becomes a bit difficult to digest the fact that Goans would like to see their land defiled and sunk to the abysmal depths of depravity. But that is basically what is happening!

Having opened its frontiers to people who could come, spend and enjoy Goa and its beauty, the state is now riddled with the variety who seek cheap thrills and want to be on a high when in Goa.

It is not that the soul-soothing South Goa beaches are not attracting tourists. But the over-hyped North Goa which people outside the state readily identify as ‘the happening place’ in Goa has thankfully spared South Goa the blues. But it is just a matter of time!

However, the coastal belt of North Goa hardly represents the region of yesteryears where the pristine beaches, a dip in the sea, the scenic beauty of the rising and setting sun, the local ambience, cuisine, music and such other interesting factors readily allured tourists.

“People need to understand that when you visit a place you have to ‘live’ that place. You cannot change the place to your own city.” So opined a frequent visitor to Goa.

Nothing could be farther from the truth!

The large presence of foreign tourists is an accepted fact in Goa. Israelis and Russians who have stayed here for a long time have created their own enclaves in Goan villages over a period of time.

A drive along Morjim, Ashvem and Arambol towards Mandrem makes one wonder whether one has inadvertently entered Russian soil. Advertisements and signages along the way all in Russian language and various shacks and eateries serving exclusive Russian cuisine are common sights – and all in the heart of Goa!

For nothing have Morjim, Ashvem and Mandrem earned the moniker of “Little Moscow”.

These colonies are allegedly drug dens, headquarters from where these cartels operate their nefarious activities from. And it is the fair name of Goa that is getting soiled!

With these ‘shortcomings’ perennially tagging the state, has tourism really been the bane of Goa!

Hardly so, one would think!

“Goa is forever ready to welcome tourists as 40 percent of the state revenue depends on tourism.” (Incredible Goa)

Would being selective about the class of visitors touring the state have made a better impact on the overall scenario! But then, as would a region earning fame as a fantastic locale, so would the footsteps complimenting the status – it would invite both the decent and the crass.

That the locals are making their opinions clear and are raising voices of dissent against the rampant commercialization of anything that even remotely has a connection with any aspect of tourism in the state is amply evident these days.

Considering the opposition by the locals, it is learnt that the Goa Tourism Department has refused to grant permission to “Sunburn Music Festival” on December 31. The Empower Committee of the Tourism Department has also refused to grant permission for the music to be played beyond 10 p.m.

A small win for the beleaguered locals no doubt!

But it is necessary that Goans continue to resist any such designs that have the potential to disturb the peace and tranquillity of the area.

Most may argue that drugs, gambling, prostitution and such other vices are the secondary consequences of a flawed tourism policy. But is it really so!

While the necessity to ‘look beyond the sun, sand and sea’ has prompted the tourism department and stakeholders to envisage innovative ways to increase the tourist footfall in the state, drugs and such other depravities are gaining prominence only as problems that afflict the society.

Schools and colleges in Goa have been grappling with the menace of drugs for quite some time now. With prowling peddlers making the campuses their happy hunting grounds, the authorities at these educational institutions are at their wits end wondering what they could do to safeguard their students against “opioid” addiction.

Worse is the scenario where some of these youngsters have willingly become ‘drug mules’ to either support their addictive habits or to earn money for spending!

While such campaigns are necessary on a regular basis to have the issue gaining top priority all along; without the collaboration of like-minded people however, this is an onerous task. Nonetheless, a step at a time should produce the desired results.

Goa needs to be rebranded as a drug-free state!

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