The Centre for Responsible Tourism expresses profound solidarity with the self- employed stakeholders involved in earning their livelihood from the tourism businesses.
Over the past month there were several incidents where government ordered displacement of the marginalised in the tourism business with the intention of clearing the spaces to facilitate the entry of big business ventures.
It is distressing to note that the Tourism Department chose to demolish shacks in Utorda-Majorda just as the guests were about to begin their lunch. It was a cruel act, indeed. This act has not only shocked those tourists but has driven them away from our State forever, as per their accounts. It is so unfortunate that the Government chose to destroy the shacks inspite of knowing fully well that the international tourists plan their holiday to Goa only after it is confirmed that the shack allocation is completed. This action of the Government is in an atmosphere when the local communities are struggling due to a worst tourist season ever.
Under the guise of maintaining the Coastal Regulatory Zone, coastal communities operating on their own land or on the government land are being threatened with demolition of their small guest houses, huts, shacks or other stalls when at the same time multi-storied hotels are being set up within the CRZ area.
The sudden demolition of the stalls belonging to the local people who were operating for so many years in Vagator was done claiming that they were doing unauthorised business on government land. Human decency demands that the people should be warned and sufficient time given to move their belongings to safer places. This is a deliberate attempt to displace the local communities in order to facilitate entry for those who can afford the price.
Similarly, there is a systematic design to displace the local self-employed tourist taxi operators from the scene in order to facilitate the introduction of Taxi business companies. Moreover, the alleged overcharging by the local tourist taxi operators is constantly cited as a reason for the lower inflow of tourists, presently. It is so paradoxical that, during the peak season, if at all a self-employed tourist taxi operator charges Rs. 700/- instead of Rs. 500/- they are termed as cheats, but when a starred hotel raises its fares exorbitantly or if the airline operators fix rates beyond imagination their act is referred to as part of business strategy. In this manner the small operators are always painted as the villains.
Incidentally, in one panchayat meeting in North Goa, a Member of the Legislative Assembly openly challenged the local communities to set up starred hotels promising them full support of the Government whereas in the same area they are facing the threat of disruption of their business operation due to the CRZ proviso. This is a clear indication of enabling the big operators to set up businesses.
The Government has a bounden duty to protect the livelihood of the coastal communities as they were forced to sacrifice their sustainable traditional occupations to enable the promotion of tourism. The uniqueness of Goan Tourism is the involvement of the large number of people from the locality. The Government need to realise that it is beneficial to support the small operators as such economics curtails the leakages in a significant manner. However, every move of the Government is skewed against the local people.
We demand that the Government act to help restore the rightful place of the coastal communities to operate and protect their livelihood without further harassing them in their business ventures.
Fr. Freddy Braganza