If everything goes according to plan, Goans will finally get a chance to enjoy beach-day again. With the passing of the ban on alcohol in public places, especially on the beach, there is now hope that we will have cleaner beaches, that are safer and free of broken glass and litter. It was a tough stance to take, but a step in the right direction.
While many may see this as an extreme solution, this has been a long time coming. Given the drop in international tourism over the years, it’s about time the Government took a hard look at the situation and made the right call – even if it means penalizing restaurant and shack owners for allowing patrons to drink outside their premises.
What exactly does the law state?
The amendments to the Goa Tourist Places (Protection and Maintenance) Act, 2001, which were approved by the State Cabinet last week, have now been sent for the governor’s assent. Under the new amendment, violators will be fined Rs. 2,000, and if the violation is committed by more than one person, the group will have to pay Rs 10,000. There are, however, no penal provisions in the new law. The new amendment also makes provisions to ban the cooking of food in tourist and public places illegal – a practice that has plagued the state for many years and continues to happen brazenly even in non-tourist areas.
The minute you stop this (drinking in pubic) you will see that this crowd will stop coming to Goa.- Deputy Speaker Michael Lobo
How does this affect us?
Well quite simply, this means that as much as we love having the occasional drink or two, we can no longer do so in public spaces such as pavements or on the beach. In fact, this law has always been there, just never really enforced. The aim is to now be more strict, as this is seriously affecting the quality of tourism in the state. Deputy Speaker Michael Lobo illustrated the reality of the situation by saying, “They (tourists) don’t want to drink in a shack or a restaurant, because they know it is expensive. They just want to buy and come to the beach and get drunk and look at women.” He further suggested, “Stop people drinking on the footpath, on the promenades, on the beaches, breaking bottles. The minute you stop this you will see that this crowd will stop coming to Goa.”
What can we do to make a difference?
We have been fighting this for a long time now from behind our computers. We’ve shared pictures of littered beaches, tourists cooking on pavements, and worse still, we’ve even been on the receiving end of injuries due to broken glass bottles. It’s time now for us to be more vocal in protecting our way of life and our public spaces. Laws are only effective if they are enforced, and we as the public need to uphold the law as well. Savio Messias, the president of Goa’s Apex Hospitality Industry Body echoed the same sentiment when he said, “We are happy that this bill is passed, but the question is who will implement it? Failure to implement it will be back to square one.”
Given the fact that our state relies on tourism, and with over 80 lakh tourists visiting Goa, it is imperative that the quality of tourism improves, and this ban on drinking in public seems to be a step in the right direction. For now, opinions seem to be polarised, especially since it feels like Goa is losing its sense of freedom. But if that freedom has been taken for granted, there is very little we as a society can do to protect what is ours.
What are your views on the new amendment? Do you feel this is what’s best for Goa? Is there a better way to curb littering, drinking, and cooking in public? Let us know in the comments below.