Shack Owners Welfare Society Goa – SOWS Goa

Upon the invitation of the Shack Owners Welfare Society- Goa (SOWS-Goa), CRT worked with their representatives and the ‘Economics advisory group’ of CRT to develop a comprehensive and just Beach Shack policy for the licensing of shacks under the Ministry of Tourism, Government of Goa.

Shack owners made the claims contained in their policy based on the understanding and claim that “in accordance with our ancestral rights to the coast and our constitutional right to livelihood, and in order to stimulate the local economy and promote safe and environmentally conscious tourism related practices for the general welfare of the coastal community of the State of Goa.

Shack as source of Self-Employment/Small entrepreneurship

As a matter of introduction to the policy, SOWS and CRT underlined how “the shack business started in the 1960’s inGoaand how traditional Fisher folk were the pioneers of this business; selling soft drinks and food to the tourists on the beach.” They underlined that “in more ways then one, shacks became the corner stone and a unique aspect of the Tourism Industry inGoa.” The pointed out that “the inherent hospitality instincts of the coastal communities madeGoaa very attractive destination for tourists from all over the world.”

Calling for action and positive responses from the government as a matter of justice, SOWS-CRT argued that “with tourism altering livelihood patterns on the coast, fisher folk, toddy tappers and others who lost their traditional livelihoods to tourism found an alternate means of making a living from tourism trough the shack business. The shack not only typified the best aspects of Goan hospitality; it also provided the tourist a space where they could encounter Goan culture through authentic Goan food and music.”

Today, there are around 370 traditional shack owners who are totally dependent on the shack business for their livelihoods. In view of prudent coastal management (ensure that the carrying capacity of the coast is not exceeded by overcrowding) and in accordance with CRZ regulations, the government has restricted the number of shacks.

Staking their claim to maintaining the shack business exclusively for coastal communities, the policy emphasis that “traditional shack owners by nature tend to protect the coast being its inhabitants; hence they use sustainable environmental practices such as recycling of materials used for the shacks, use of local materials and resources and adopting generally environmentally friendly practices. Also, because traditional shack owners are familiar with the coast and the economic resources available they are able to provide authentic food at moderate prices which is an attraction to the tourist.

What follows are highlights of the policy which, as earlier pointed out, have been met by and large by the government with the hope that the coming year will see much improvement.

  1. Licensing policy                 

a) Licenses for 90% of Beach Shacks will be allocated to traditional shack owners exclusively and will be valid for a period of five years, with priority given to those holding licenses for the longest number of years. In such cases, automatic renewal of licenses should be accorded provided the licensee has not violated provisions of the law and other regulations that are drawn up from time to time.

A seniority based licensing system will provide a degree of permanence and security and thereby be conducive to promoting better shack management, regulation, and environmental compliance.  A senior shack owner who can rely on being granted a license will invest in higher quality durable technology to manage utilities and waste,  and will take greater care of both tourists and the cleanliness of the beach in order to sustain his/her livelihood. The current lottery based allocation system creates undue hardship on experienced Shack Owners who are faced with the uncertainty of not being able to earn a livelihood.

b) Each year, 10% of shack licenses will be granted to new applicants based on a lottery system. However, in keeping with the notion of coastal communities as hosts of the coastal areas, the licensees will be given to coastal inhabitants.

  1. Ban on sub-leasing        

The Department of Tourism will strictly enforce section 9 of the licensing agreement, which prohibits the subletting of Shacks.  The Department of Tourism will also incorporate into the licensing agreement a regulation prohibiting the sale or assignment of a Beach Shack License. The enforcement of these regulations will prevent corrupt practices and the ownership of Beach Shacks by non-residents who may not have the natural instincts to maintain the coast and hence the best interests of the coast in mind.

  1. Ban on foreigners working on or running shacks

A total ban on foreigners running or operating shacks as workers should be imposed.  

  1. Rejection of licenses

If a license is denied, the applicant will be given just cause as to why his/her application has been rejected.  The Department of Tourism will establish a non-biased appeal committee with oversight of the licensing committee.  The committee will include senior members of the Tourism Department not associated with the licensing board.  An applicant will be given an opportunity to appeal the decision of the licensing authority by petitioning the appeal committee.  The appeal committee will weigh the petition against the recommendation of the licensing board in the presence of the petitioner in a committee meeting open to the public.  If the applicant loses his or her appeal, the applicant will be refunded the application fee within 15 days from the date of unsuccessful bid.

Dual sources of employment

Neither the applicant’s employment status nor the employment status of any member of the applicant’s family will preclude an applicant from obtaining a license. The increased involvement in the economy by more members of the public fosters local economic growth.

Cost of application forms

The cost of the application forms, which has increased from Rs.10 to Rs. 5000 over the last ten years, will be reduced to Rs. 500, a rate that reflects the normal inflation rate of the economy of Goa over the corresponding period.

Site Plan

The Department of Tourism will maintain a concrete site plan for shacks and transparently allocate shack locations based on the site plan.  The site plan will include locations on the boundaries of private resorts.  The establishment of a site plan will stimulate the local economy and aid in management of site maintenance, environmental compliance, waste, and utilities to include water and power resources.

Procedure for applications and licensing including time lines

The government will formulate a draft policy based on the proposals contained in this representation. The following time line and procedures are suggested in this regard.

–       Draft policy of government should be made available to Shack Owners Welfare Society by July 15th, 2008.

–       Suggestions to the draft policy shall be solicited and responses must be submitted by the 31st July, 2008.

–       The “Working Group on Shack Policy” (See point 13 below) will then review the suggestions received and a final policy will be announced before10th August, 2008.

–       Applications for licenses will then be advertised by the 15th August 2008

–       Last date for receiving applications will be 25th August, 2008.

–       The Working Group will then meet to finalize allotments by the 5th September, 2008 and successful applicants will be informed within 5 days. (Early allocation will provide maximum earning potential for Shack owners while allowing all government agencies sufficient time to ensure shack owners are complying with licensing agreements and environmental regulations.)

Beach beds as a source of additional self-employment

The Department of Tourism, in association with environmentalists and NGOs, will assess the carrying capacity of tourists of coastal villages.  Based on this assessment, the number of Deck/Beach Beds will be limited to a reasonable amount for shack owners. Hoteliers and private property owners will be prohibited from providing Deck/Beach Beds

Cooking on the beaches/shacks

Shack owners will be allowed to provide full restaurant services within their facilities to include food preparation and cooking.  In order to protect the health and safety of Shack Owners, their employees, and guests, the shack owner will maintain kitchen facilities for cooking and food preparation in compliance with all current health and safety codes.  All facilities will be inspected and certified by the Department of Public Health prior to operation and periodically throughout the term of the license. Appropriate licenses will also be obtained from the Directorate of Food and Drug administration and the Department of Fire services.

All reasonable regulations stipulated by the above mentioned government departments will be strictly adhered to.

Licenses for alcoholic beverages

All shacks wishing to serve alcoholic beverages will require applying for and obtaining necessary appropriate licenses from the Department of Excise as per the provision of the Excise Laws.


The Government will provide the Shack Owners with easy and ready access to water and electricity and adequate and timely procedures for obtaining the same. Equipment for waste removal shall be provided by the relevant government department.

Working Group on Shack Policy

In order to democratize the procedure of licensing of shacks, and, towards a participatory process of tourism management through shacks, and also to increasing the level of responsibility of shack owners for viable and sound coastal management and responsible tourism, we propose that the Department of Tourism establish a “Working Group on Shack Policy” which will work on a Public-Private partnership model for greater accountability on both sides for the common good of tourists and local communities who serve the tourists. The Working group could be comprised as follows:

  • Three senior officials of the Department of Tourism
  • One official of the Ministry of Food and Drug Administration.
  • Two representatives of organizations involved with responsible tourism.
  • President, and three other representatives of the Shack Owners Association  one each from among shack owners in the North, South, and Central area)
  • The Minister of Tourism or his representative will be the Chairperson of the group. 

Proposals for Responsible Shack Management and Operation

The members of the Shack Owners Welfare Society as residents of the coastal community and as coastal business owners have a commitment to the health and safety of their guests and employees, and in the maintenance of the coastal ecosystem.  In line with this assertion, it was proposed that Shack owners will also undertake responsibilities for responsibilities in tourism as follows:

  1. 1. Waste management

Shack owners, in coordination with the Department of Tourism, and the Village Panchayats will maintain adequate facilities for the disposal of sewage, waste water, and both non-bio-degradable and bio-degradable refuse.  The Shack Owners Welfare Society in cooperation with the Centre for Responsible Tourism and under Government supervision will provide training to all shack owners regarding the responsibilities listed above.

  1. 2. Environmental standards

Shack owners will promote and comply with all Environmental regulations including matters such as noise pollution.

  1. 3. Hygiene and Health Standards

The Shack Owners Welfare Society undertakes to prepare a booklet containing guidelines and instructions to be followed scrupulously by all shack owners so as to maintain hygiene and health standards.

  1. 4. Provision of changing rooms for tourists

The Shack Owners Welfare Society will provide changing facilities for bathers at their collective costs.

  1. 5. Life guard stations at Shack Owners costs

The Shack Owners Welfare Society will manage all lifeguard stations on the coast.  Shack owners will share the responsibility for staffing each station with government trained lifeguards from dawn until dusk for the duration of the season.  Lifeguards will be treated as the employees of the Shack Owners Welfare Society and costs for the purchase of government approved rescue equipment will be borne by the Department of Tourism.

  1. 6. Crime Monitoring with Police cooperation

All Members of the Shack Owners Welfare Society will aid the police in combating crime with the particular focus of preventing the sale and use of illegal drugs and narcotics and protecting children from pedophilia, and the abuse and exploitation of women in the tourism arena.  The failure of a Shack owner to notify the police of any witnessed illegal activity within their shack premises and on the coastline will result in the levying of heavy fines on the offending shack owner.

  1. 7.Self regulation

The Shack Owners Welfare Association (SOWS) will create a “Self-regulation Committee” which shall monitor activities of the shacks and ensure compliance of the Responsible Shack Management policy. This forum will include SOWS office bearers and representatives of the Center for Responsible Tourism.

As an attempt to self-enforce environmental standards, SOWS planned a training waste management for owners and workers for all licensed shack owners in Goa in collaboration with CRT. It was agreed that in the interests of Responsible Tourism, and a clean-green environment, every licensed shack owner Goa’s tourist industry needs responsible hosts too. This programme assumed added importance because the Department of Tourism had earlier launched a ‘Beach Cleaning’ initiative with CRT. That programme was based on the recognition that the spillage of solid and liquid wastes on the coastline can have severe long term impacts on the coastal eco-systems.

Unfortunately, for various reasons, the plan was not implemented and many people living alongside the coast complain that the shacks are a source of much garbage and noise pollution in some of the more crowded areas. This is a lacuna that needs to be addressed right in the licensing regime. Community groups recommend that violators of environmental standards should be denied licenses at lest for a certain number of years as a deterrent to others. Additionally, it is felt that the government and Panchayats are unable to manage monitoring either because of inadequate personnel or owing to corrupt practices. Only a citizen-based monitoring mechanism and self-regulation can produce the needed results. In addition, there

Compensation to Shack Owners for the season 2008-2009

In the context of a poor season marred by the so-called Mumbai ‘terror attack’, SOWS and CRT visited the Chief Minister as a delegation to ask for compensation to Shack Owners for the season 2008-2009 for financial losses incurred by them. In a letter submitted to the Chief Minister, Shri Digambar Kamat, onDecember 28, 2008, they wrote: “As you are fully aware, the tourist season for this year (2008-2009) has been very lean. There has been a drop of almost 50% tourists so far. The consequence has been that we shack owners have met with very heavy losses.

Shack business is our very livelihood and if we cannot earn during the season, we have no other ways of feeding ourselves and our families, and educating our children.

This is peak of the Christmas and New Year period is almost over- the time when we make the bulk of our earnings. The opportunity is lost and we cannot hope to compensate our losses no matter what we do. What we have lost is huge and we fear for our security during the non-season. Besides, we have to live with the stringent condition that we cannot hold other jobs or businesses and if we do that our licenses are not issued.

You are aware as to the reasons for our losses. They are beyond our control. This is why we come to you in appeal to provide us appropriate relief in the form of compensation for the losses we have had to bear.

At an average, we would have earned at least 1-1.5 lakhs in the high season. The minimum we expect by way of compensation is a reimbursement of the application fee of Rs 30,000- plus an ad hoc amount of Rs 25,000- to each licensed shack owner.

If we had a normal season, we would have paid in taxes to the government and that amount alone would exceed 90 lakhs. We hope the government will support us in our bad times and help us with the requested compensation.

At this time, we also wish to thank the government for its prompt security actions which have kept us- the local people- and the tourists safe. We are sure that the next season will once again be thriving.

We urge your swift action which will send a message to the people that you are truly a CN of the ‘aam aadmi’.

SOWS and CRT expect a compensation to be effected when the fee structure for the next season (2009-2010) is determined. Hopefully, a waiver of fee for 2009-2010 will be the decision they will get

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