Centre’s directive follows recent attacks on tourists in Goa, writes Rajesh B. Nair

After the recent attacks on foreign tourists in Goa, the Union Ministry of Tourism has asked State governments to consider forming a special force to provide security to tourists.

Officials of the Puducherry governments said they had received a directive from Tourism Minister Ambika Soni three weeks ago to form a “tourist security force” to deal with cases of “harassment of and misbehaviour with foreign tourists.”

The Ministry has also appealed to the Tourism Department to coordinate with the law enforcement agencies to evolve a mechanism to give adequate security, the officials said. They said steps had been taken by the Tourism and Police Departments to ensure security of tourists, especially foreign visitors. The direction came after a British teenager was found murdered on the Anjuna Beach in Goa.

A few months ago, the Tourism Department took the initiative of deploying private security guards at all prominent tourist spots such as the Beach Road, the Chunnambar Boat House, Bharathi Park and the Ousteri Lake, besides at the bus stand and the railway station.

At the same time, the Police Department would be forming a wing to provide security for tourists immediately after the Union Home Ministry approved its recommendation to create 450 additional posts of constables, a senior police official said.

Though foreign tourists did not have any major problem in the Union Territory, police officials said the situation could change if the tourist inflow increased. The Union Territory witnessed a 35 per cent growth in the flow of foreign tourists during 2007: 56,000 foreign tourists visited Puducherry as against 38,000 visitors during 2006.

Goa’s Inspector-General of Police Kishan Kumar, who earlier had a short stint in Puducherry in the same capacity, told The Hindu on phone that there was “only a very remote chance of such incidents as the killing of Scarlett Keeling or the attack on German Tourists in Goa occurring in the Union Territory. His point was that the type of foreigners visiting Puducherry was different from those holidaying in Goa.

Another difference, he said, was that in Goa it was predominantly “beach tourism” unlike in Puducherry which is known for “spiritual and leisure tourism.” Goa had a long history of late night parties and cases of drug trafficking. A majority of the incidents occurred there were due to over-consumption of alcohol and drugs.

Although the Union Territory had not confronted the problem of narcotic substance, barring complaints of use of marijuana, late night partying had become common, Mr. Kishan Kumar said.

Police officials said they were keeping a tab on some beach resorts and pockets in coastal villages where partying takes place.