Whispering protests over beach privatisation

| 22 October 2001 22:14 IST

Amidst speculations and whispering protests, Goa is planning to privatise management of its famous beaches, in order to keep them clean while also running it commercially.

"No beach will be privatised, but only its management", clarifies BJP chief minister Manohar Parrikar. He is yet to shape up the plan, which has perhaps been mooted for the first time in the country.

According to Nirmala Sawant, the Goa PCC chief and a Congress legislator, it does not make much of a difference if the private firms start ruling the beaches of Goa. "Beach is a public place and it should not be privatised", she says.

As the government is still not clear what kind of terms and conditions would be laid down in the privatisation concept, locals however fear that they may be simply stopped from entering the beach area, without paying a prescribed fee.

At least two such public beaches in Panaji are gone totally in the hands of big five star resorts during Congress regime as they have cordoned it in such a way that no layman can enter the area without going through the hotel corridors.

On experimental basis, Parrikar now plans to privatise beach cleaning, management and entertainment facilities at Miramar in Panaji, Calangute in North Goa and Colva in South Goa - all three famous beaches of the tourist state.

The plan is to lease out some land, adjacent to the beach, to the private parties for 20 years where they can earn through pay parking, restaurant, amusement and some water sports facilities. In return, they will clean up the beach and manage life guard protection to the visitors.

"Going by past records where public places like gardens are leased out to private parties, we are worried because such privatisation ultimately prevents local public from entering there and it ceases to be a public place", states Manoj Joshi, a resident of Panaji.

"I will form committees of local citizens for each beach to monitor its functioning", states Parrikar. Though he plans to even prepare modalities after seeking public opinion on the concept, Joshi is worried that it may be just an eye-wash by appointing some local BJP activists and managing the show.

The chief minister, who is also the Panaji MLA, however appears helpless as he admit that the tourism department is not capable of implementing the beach cleaning operation as well as life guard facility very efficiently, while the tourists suffer.

In spite of spending around Rs 50 lakh annually over beach cleaning operation, the beaches are still full of plastic bottles, bags and all kind of waste. There is also no control over some young tourists drinking beer and throwing broken bottles in the sand.

On the other hand, the drowning cases are also on rise as young tourists, after getting drunk, refuse to listen to even the life guards and succumb to strong sea waves. Drowning deaths has become a common phenomena here while the season has just begun in the state.

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