Panaji: The Goa Tourism Minister, Manohar Ajgaonkar, wants to oust beggars and Lamanis (members of a nomadic tribe), from the beaches of the State as he believes they are spoiling Goa’s culture.
Earlier this week, the Minister, who belongs to regional outfit Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), stirred a controversy when he said that Lamanis and beggars will be banned from the State as they don’t fit in its culture and Goenkarponn (Goanness or Goan identity).
The Lamanis, known for their colourful attire, hail from Karnataka. They are usually seen selling balloons, trinkets, and handmade clothes on beaches.
“Goa, Goans and Goenkarponn ” was the key focus of development of Vijay Sardesai-led Goa Forward Party when it joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government post-Assembly election. Ever since then, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and his Ministers have been talking about the need to protect Goanness.
Mr. Ajgaonkar, while speaking to reporters on Monday, had said that his Ministry would take action against the Lamanis who are involved in illegal businesses. “Outsiders, who can uphold Goenkarponn should be allowed to stay, the rest should be chased away. These Lamanis should be stopped [from coming to the State]. A wrong message is sent because of them and the reputation of Goans is spoilt.”
He also defined Goenkarponn with an example of “a drunk Goan,” who, according to Mr. Ajgaonkar, never misbehaves. “A drunk Goan will never make a scene on the street. You would not even know that he is drunk. That is Goan culture and Goenkarponn .”
Two days after this press conference, the Minister proposed reviving Tourism Squads, which were defunct till now, as part of his mission to crackdown on illegal activities along the State’s coast.
The squads comprise tourism officials and Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) personnel. They will be tasked with sharing information on drug peddling and prostitution rackets to the Goa Police.
Mr. Ajgaonkar has also said that the drug trade is flourishing in the State because the police were tacitly sympathetic to the activity. “Our officers know how the drugs are coming in [the State]. I will tell the CM that wherever drugs are found, the concerned officer of the area should be suspended.”
The Minister said, “If the beggars, Lamanis, and hawkers carry out their business within legal parameters, and maintain the culture of the State, nobody will stop them [from doing their business on beaches].” The Tourism Department is also considering to issue ID-cards to beach shack employees to prevent Lamanis and hawkers from impersonating as shack staff during raids.
North Goa Superintendent of Police Karthik Kashyap told The Hindu on Friday that the State police has never targeted people who do their work legally. He said the Goa Tourism Trade Act provides for ban on selling wares, like balloons, on beaches.