The government has set yet another date for crackdown on drinking in public places. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has announced that from August 1 drinking in public places will attract heavy fines. Littering and dumping plastic waste would invite penalty of Rs 2,500. The amount of fine or other penalty for drinking in public places and causing nuisance has not been made clear. This is the third time the government has announced a date to deal with the nuisance of drinking in public during the last one year. Similarly, several announcements of action against those littering public places have been made by the government over the years but the authorities have failed to act. On September 17, 2017, the Chief Minister had announced that effective from October of the year the government would act tough against those drinking in public places and causing nuisance. He repeated his announcement on January 4, 2018, but somehow the action could not come forth. Groups and individuals, both locals as well as tourists, continued to indulge in drinking in public and causing nuisance.
Let us hope the state government acts sternly on its promise this time. It is quite common to find liquor bottles on the edges of roads, in the parks and fields, and on the beaches, so also plastic bags and other types of waste. Though boards are displayed at many places with warning against causing nuisance and littering public places, people tend to ignore them. There is total absence of law enforcement to stop the violations. If the locals and tourists drinking in public and littering lack civic sense, as Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar says, they have to be forced to learn it. Keeping places clean has become difficult as lakhs of people (including tourists) move in and out of the cities of the state every day and they are unmindful of their civic duties and irresponsibly discard used bottles and other things anywhere. As far as littering is concerned, one of the issues is absence of bins. The government and civic bodies must keep litter bins at designated places for people to discard waste.
The rising number of arrivals of tourists over the years and benefits derived from the tourism sector should not make the authorities turn a blind eye to the problems caused by it. It would be wrong to portray all tourists as lacking civic sense. However, a good number of tourists that come to Goa show no regard for cleanliness and public decency. We recently had nasty examples from the Surla village on the Goa-Karnataka border. Residents of the village are demanding closure of the 13-odd liquor shops in the area which are frequented by tourists and people from neighbouring Karnataka state who cause nuisance and also litter the place with waste and plastic. There is possibility of other villages following the Surla example. The traffic police have been carrying on a campaign for helmet enforcement, and that seems to be having a positive effect on tourists as well as locals. The tourists who are punished for not wearing helmets would go back home and tell others planning to come to Goa to wear helmets. That is how the message will spread. Similarly, if the government takes action against tourists who are caught drinking in public or littering, they would go back and tell others planning to come to Goa not to do so, else they could be fined.
Drinking in public is not indulged in only by tourists. It is also becoming common among sections of Goan youth who gather in public places in evenings with bottles to drink. The fields close to the roads in some areas are littered with the bottles they discard. For effective enforcement of the penalties from August 1, the government must designate ‘no drinking zones’ and put up boards for warning. The enforcement must involve patrolling by evenings when much of the drinking in public places takes place. A special force must be designated to enforce the government decision. The government has to deal with the paradox of saving nearly all the bars from closure owing to the Supreme Court order on one hand and enforcing prohibition on drinking in public places on the other. The mission of the enforcement against drinking in public places is going to be: You have the freedom of buying a bottle of drink from a store not very far from wherever you are in Goa, but you do not have the freedom to open and drink from it in a public place. Can the mission be accomplished?