Goa exudes a high degree of sleaze and seediness



Can we also expect a decent infrastructure? An efficient and effective police? A first class level of service to tourists? And can we also expect officialdom to have cleaned up its act and to have purged the state of its corruption and sleaziness that was exposed to the world in the aftermath of the Scarlett Keeling murder? No, because it’s business as usual.
On my last three visits to Goa, I have spent most of my time in Anjuna. Anjuna is a small place, comprising the village itself and the long beach, fringed with shacks and restaurants. Three years ago, while I was there, a young foreign tourist was killed at the crossroads while riding a two-wheeler. Another young foreign tourist died of a drug overdose in his guest house. Two years ago, 15-year-old Scarlett from the UK was found dead on Anjuna beach, after having been raped.

These are just snapshots of what occurred, and only what I got to hear about, during my three relatively short visits. After the rape and murder of Scarlett, her mother Fiona MacKeown and her lawyer Vikram Varma went on record saying that the police and other authorities made several attempts to pass it off as another drowning case. On May 8, the body of Russian teenager Elena Sukhonova was found on railway tracks in Goa, under suspicious circumstances.

Officials accused MacKeown of negligence and stated that Goa should try to attract a better class of foreign tourist in an attempt to hit back. Well, in order to do that, Goa must provide the type of infrastructure and level of service found in other global tourist hotspots.
Goa is awash with drugs. I recently walked along the lane leading to Anjuna beach, during the evening. This was no hidden away back lane. It is skirted by restaurants and souvenir shops. Within the space of 10 minutes, I was asked by five different characters if I wanted to buy opium, hashish or cocaine.

Dirty and corrupt
Goa’s unpleasant, seedy underbelly is dirty and corrupt. It is also very well thought out: from land deals in other areas of India for growing charas, to the chain of supply via Mumbai and beyond; from international mafia connections, to the control of parties; and from who pays off whom, to who sells which illegal substances and where.
Many people involved in the tourist trade in Goa are genuinely trying to improve levels of service and infrastructure. But, at this point in time, a good deal of cash-strapped foreigners come to Goa for one reason — it is cheap.

Foreign visitors can get a beach holiday for a cheap price, but the drawback is having to put up with potholed roads, wild traffic, poor and indifferent service, loadshedding, widespread police incompetence and corruption in high places, and seediness and a lack of safety, whether on the roads or elsewhere.

Goa continues to exude a high degree of sleaze and seediness. And to those who say that many tourist hotspots across the globe have similar problems, that may well be the case. But, is using such a lowest common denominator argument a good enough reason for justifying the status quo and for not letting picturesque Goa realise it’s true potential? Not really. Goa is cheap — in more ways than one!

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