PANAJI: The illicit activities along the coastal belt have re-emerged, thanks to the absence of a dedicated Tourist Police force -- the unit which has been defunct for over a decade.
This return of open body massages, hawkers, and touts comes as a significant blow to the Tourism Department and Goa Police’s claims of making efforts to curb the menace -- one of the eyesores of the tourism industry.
Sources told The Goan that these unauthorised masseurs are pocketing anywhere from ₹1,000 to ₹1,500 from each domestic tourist for a body massage, carried out in broad daylight amidst full public view. The audacity of the situation is further evident by the fact that foreign nationals, unfazed by the hefty price tag, are willing to part with a whopping ₹5,000 for an hour of massage.
These troublesome hawkers and touts/photographers are equally active, all of whom happen to be migrants. Sources confirmed that many of these touts claim to be registered with the Tourism Department, but in reality, they are non-Goans who have been sublet by Goan touts/photographers.
“The tourism or IRB personnel do not seem to be serious about cracking down on the menace. These activities are happening under the very noses of these officials, yet no action is taken,” the source revealed.
The Goan tried to contact the Tourism officials but in vain while senior officers in the Goa Police argued they are “not to be blamed for the menace completely. “We have deployed an IRBian personnel on behalf of the TPU, which has been defunct since 2012,” the officer stated, explaining the tedious process that follows.
IRB staff asked to submit report to tourism official
“Even if these illegal activities are detected, the concerned IRB staff must submit a report to the tourism official posted on the beaches. This report is then forwarded to higher-ranking authorities and by the time this process is completed, illegal hawkers, touts, or masseurs flee. IRB also lacks the authority to arrest or confiscate anything from them,” he disclosed. Most of these are found in the crowded Calangute-Baga belt where the number of shacks and night-out hubs are in maximum numbers.
It has also come to the fore that while a separate tourism force is the responsibility of the Tourism Department, the proposal has not moved forward other than placing it before the Goa Tourism Board in the recent past. The blame game has however begun.