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Protect Dignity Of Villagers Of Surla

AFTER suffering for long, the residents of Surla, a village in the Sattari taluka bordering Karnataka, have demanded closure of all the 13 bars or liquor vends operating around their village owing to the nuisance caused by the clients of the bars, mostly tourists. A resolution seeking closing down of bars was taken at a largely attended meeting of the villagers. They have petitioned Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to seek his intervention to end the nuisance. What irks villagers is the behaviour of tourists who indulge in eve teasing and indecent activities. Tourists knock at their door in the dead of night asking for liquor. Tourists buy liquor and consume it in the local woods in the vicinity; often the drinking ends up in fight. A few unnatural deaths too have been reported in the area over the last few years, which need to be probed.

Surla offers a picturesque view and is a preferred destination of nature lovers, who want to enjoy natural beauty from atop the hills. The tiny village shot into limelight following the construction of the road linking Goa to Belgavi, which is a shortcut to the Belagavi district and is used frequently by the people, especially tourists to come down to Goa. The route helps save time and distance to reach the tourist destination. Liquor being relatively cheaper in Goa and Surla being close to Belagavi and other areas in Karnataka, people from the state come to the village to drink. As the road traffic and liquor business grew in the village so also the problems. The villagers from Surla for long have been protesting the unruly and indecent behaviour of tourists, who have shown total disregard to law. The state had to deploy police, especially on Sundays and holidays, in the past to deal with the menace caused by rowdy elements that on getting drunk used to break liquor bottles and scatter plastic all over. As the route passing through Surla has become a favourite to tourists the state authorities should take steps to ensure that the locals of Surla do not have to bear the insult and nuisance
of tourists.

People of Surla have seen drunk tourists resorting to obscenity by dancing in semi-nude condition, passing lewd comments on local women out on daily chores, like bathing and washing in ponds. Tourists block roads. Failure to deal with such elements would lead to bigger numbers coming to the village and creating a law and order problem. Safety of local population should be high on the agenda of the state authorities. With the villagers alleging illegalities in liquor sales there is also need to keep a tab on the liquor vendors and liquor being sold in the area. The villagers have alleged that some of the deaths that have occurred in the area could be murders arising out of fights after drinks, so it would be in the interest of people that such situation are avoided in future by taking preventive steps, including controlling sale of liquor. It remains to be seen whether the state authorities would order a probe into the deaths that have taken place in the area and take the cases to logical conclusions. Such steps would serve as deterrent and could prevent such
incidents in future.

The charges made by the villagers about tourists and rowdy elements harassing the womenfolk should be dealt with sternly by the authorities.  They must feel safe. As there is possibility of threat to peace in the area with fights breaking out if the villagers are forced to defend the honour of the womenfolk harassed by drunk elements, steps have to be taken to prevent such situations. One of the immediate steps to deal with the danger could be to deploy a posse of police in the village to act against those creating nuisance and teasing women in order to maintain law and order and peace in the area. The other step could be closing down liquor vends, which might need engagement with local elected representatives. The closure of liquor shops at Surla might make people from Karnataka drive down to Keri and other places to get their quota of liquor and create the same problems there. The authorities could discuss the possibility of setting up a police outpost in the area. As tourism is a mainstay of the state economy too much of policing could have adverse impact on it. The state authorities would need to weigh all the options to end the nuisance to the people of Surla.

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