The economic benefits as well as the social costs of tourism need to be evaluated. As per the annual report of the Union Ministry of Tourism, Goa accounts for less than 10 percent of the foreign tourist traffic into the country. On the other hand, some of the most powerful drug cartels from the entire world operate in this territory. The drug trade has now spread from the coastal belt to the hinterland. As mentioned in the Vidhan Sabha, a crucial priority of the local administration ought to be the elimination of drugs and narcotics from this State. Drug abuse which is largely associated with adults has now trickled down to teenagers with a growing number of school children getting addicted to various narcotics in Goa. According to the Kripa Foundation, an NGO which works in the field of de-addiction in India, several young people have died of drug overdose across Goa.
The hippies who came here from the West in the Sixties and Seventies left the impression that Goa in an easy place for drugs. During my visit to the northern coastal belt some time ago, I was informed that due to turf wars to control the drug trade, drug dealers of different nationalities settle in different villages. Israelis control the drug trade in Vagator, Morjim is controlled by the Russians and Calangute and Candolim by the Nigerians. Goans in the coastal belt have become aliens in their own land.
In the Sixties, tourism was adopted as a key sector for Goa’s development primarily because of its potential to generate non-manual employment in a state with an increasingly educated work force and limited industrial growth. Very little awareness existed then among policy makers in Goa and elsewhere in the world about the need for sustainable tourism.
The manner in which tourism proceeds at present in Goa is unsustainable. The term “sustainable development” was popularized in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development. The Commission defined “sustainable tourism” as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. The report of the Commission, “Our Common Future”, identified the three fundamental elements of sustainable Tourism, economic, environmental and social. Economic sustainability consists in maintaining growth rate at manageable levels to avoid consumer dissatisfaction, social sustainability refers to society’s ability to absorb tourist arrivals without adversely affecting local wellbeing and values system and environmental sustainability relates to the capacity of the environment to handle tourism without damage.
Tourists do not seek the same place for long and are always exploring new destinations. Goa should be ready for this eventuality and before the tourism bubble bursts, Government should formulate a development strategy which provides employment to the local people and makes them less dependent on tourism.
Information Technology enterprises seem to be most suitable for the youth of Goa in view of the rather high literacy rate in the State. Information Technology requires smart work rather than hard physical labour. These are the industries of the Knowledge Society and they will continue to thrive.
As a result of large scale purchase of land by persons from outside Goa, including foreigners, the average Goan cannot afford a house or land in Goa. Furthermore, there is large scale migration into the State and it should be controlled.
According to the RBI guidelines, foreigners cannot acquire immovable property in India unless the concerned individual has established a place of business in this country as per FERA or FEMA, the property is necessary to carry such business and all applicable laws, rules, regulations and directions have been duly complied with. It is found that many foreigners evade these requirements.
The National Security Council Secretariat has cautioned that real estate projects by foreigners in Goa might include drug trafficking, gun running and prostitution and that some foreign drug cartels are attempting to turn Goa into a base for their activities. Government should immediately scrutinize all land deals by foreigners and if there is any illegality, confiscate the property and impose punishment on the offender and his local associates, if any.
There is large scale influx of immigrants into our State. Goa needs migrant labour. However, uncontrolled migration into the State can upset its demographic composition and lead to social and economic problems. There are several laws to control migration into the State but these laws are not being implemented effectively and remain largely on paper. The Interstate Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act of 1979, The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act of 1970 and the Goa Daman and Diu Inter State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Rules 1982 are some such laws. The 1979 Act provides for registration of all contractors who employed five or more interstate migrants on any day of the preceding twelve months. The contractors must furnish details of the workmen, issue a pass book with passport size photograph to every workman indicating where he is working and other details. The State Government is required to appoint inspectors to oversee implementation of the Act. The law directs builders and labour contractors to provide residential accommodation, sanitation and other facilities to the workers engaged by them. Yet, these provisions are ignored and much of the migrant labour lives in slums under the most unhygienic conditions which pose major health hazards to the migrants themselves as well as to the local people.
All migrant workers should be registered compulsorily in the Panchayats and Municipalities. Aadhar cards as well as Public Distribution System (PDS) cards should be issued to them so as to avoid buying food grains and kerosene at high prices. The State Government should hold an yearly audit of all contractors who employ migrant workers and submit a report to the State Legislature for its scrutiny. It should also open an Internet portal indicating the contractors and migrant workers in Goa for public information and verification. The machinery for implementation of the Labour legislation needs to be strengthened urgently.
(The writer is a former Union Minister)