Locals upset with dent to Goa’s image

March 19th, 2008 - 11:21 am ICT by admin  

By Frederick Noronha
Panaji, March 19 (IANS) Goa is getting into the news for the wrong reasons, and a lot of residents are hot under the collar over the manner in which their state is being projected following the rape and murder of British teen Scarlette Keeling. The 15-year-old’s death Feb 18 - after she was drugged and raped - has triggered an explosion of news coverage, and intense focus continues over the case nearly a month later.

Oscar Rebello, a prominent medico who has taken to social campaigns in recent years, angrily told IANS: “There’s mass hysteria being generated by the press. Goa is being given the image of a place of seedy drug joints. It’s project as if every Goan is waiting to have sex with any White female.”

Some like rock star Remo Fernandes have pointed out that the problem wasn’t new. He quoted from the lyrics of a song pointing to the narcotics problem.

Police in Goa, which is visited by 2.4 million tourists each year, including some 300,000 from overseas, have been accused of trying to underplay the death and pass off the murder as a beachside drowning, and delaying news about the death.

After the intense publicity in the British press, followed by as much on Indian television and the mainstream media, police charged an employee of a beach shack with murder after having sex with the 15-year-old and another local for “drugging the girl with a cocktail of narcotics”.

Goa police top brass, when asked, have pointedly denied that their belated action was due to intense media pressure, which could have an unsettling effect in the state’s largest foreign-tourist market, Britain.

Following this sensational case, Goa has been repeatedly accused of poor policing and bad governance.

Goan author Maria Aurora Couto, whose husband has been a prominent official here and elsewhere, has charged those with promoting tourism here of sending out a “perverted image…one based on the colonial gaze” that attracts the wrong kind of tourists and attention.

A British woman tourist, who said she was a police officer back home, accused police of blatant corruption and bribe collection on the beachside.

But North Goa-based lawyer Filipe Cordeiro said: “The influence of tourism on Goan youth, the problem of drugs, is nothing new. In my class of 1975, we had quite a few of us who had problems with drugs. It’s an on-going battle.”

He noted that the nature of the drugs may have changed - from ‘hash’ and ‘mandrax’ to ‘ecstasy’ - but the problem was the same.

“Tourists will always behave irresponsibly, let’s not forget the hippies of the 1970’s and how ‘responsible’ they were! We have a more recent and pervasive phenomenon of young Indians coming to Goa, binge-drinking and then fighting losing battles with the sea, or worse with other vehicles on the road. How do we in Goa address this issue?” asked Cordeiro.

“If young Scarlette were to behave similarly, drink heavily, snort drugs, roam around alone late into the night, in any city in the UK, I’m not too sure she would be any safer than in Anjuna. What can we do to help our children recognise the dangers of the ‘party’ culture?”

(Frederick Noronha can be contacted at frederick.n@ians.in)

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