Instead of guns, police manning Goa’s hottest party zones should be armed with breathalysers, say tourism industry stakeholders as the state readies to crack down on alcohol-fuelled hooliganism along its beaches and curb its famed nightlife.
While Goa loves its tourists, Francisco Braganca of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) said it was also imperative that they follow the rules of the land and do not indulge in drunken driving and create a public nuisance. “It is the need of the hour that police be posted at the exit point of Calangute beach, Titos’s Lane and Baga beach with breath analysers since most visitors are drunk and driving or riding bikes, especially between 3pm and midnight,” said Braganca.
Both Baga beach and Tito’s Lane, named after the famed mecca of Goan nightlife Club Tito’s, host hundreds and thousands of tourists annually and are known for 24×7 revelry. Braganca’s comments come after the state government passed a directive earlier this week asking liquor stores and bars and pubs to down their shutters earlier than the stipulated time. The move, officials said, was intended to stop public littering and loitering under the influence of alcohol and as a general remedy to the deteriorating law and order situation in the beach-fringing areas.
The order could cripple nightlife in Goa’s tourist-friendly coastal areas as it demands that standalone pubs and discos shut shop by 1am as against 5am hitherto. Braganca said that the order could be a case of overreach and that it needed to be reconsidered after application of thought. “Goa is known for its nightlife. It is one of the attractions for the high-end tourists coming into Goa. We need to strike a balance and need to allow certain clubs and discos that have a certain standard to remain open late in the night,” Braganca said. “Perhaps the government, in its attempt to control dance bars, also has a prejudicial attitude towards the high-end discotheques and clubs that have a separate identity and status,” he said, referring to the recent controversy which sparked after a senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader said dance bars were “kosher”.
BJP legislators themselves, especially those from the coastal belt, have reacted with displeasure against the crackdown on pubs and discos. “It will be bad for tourism in Goa. Nightlife cannot be stopped, it should be allowed to remain open until morning,” said Calangute legislator Michael Lobo, calling for better implementation of rules against drunken hooliganism and public nuisance. Braganca has suggested that drunken tomfoolery on the beaches could be reined in by empowering the dozens of life-guards posted there to take action against such crimes. “The agency appointed to protect tourists from drowning and for night patrolling should also be given the responsibility to implement the ban on open consumption of liquor in public places,” Braganca said.
Goa annually attracts nearly 2.8 million tourists, over half a million of whom are foreigners.