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Drop casinos, massage parlours from Goa tourism masterplan: Church

Posted on Aug 05 2014 | IANS

Panaji, Aug 5 : The Goa Church wants casinos and massage parlours to be dropped from the tourism masterplan being drafted by a consortium of consultants for the state government.

Addressing a press conference in Panaji Tuesday, Maverick Fernandes, who heads "Caritas", the charitable wing of the Goa Church, released an open letter addressed to Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Fernandes, in the letter, implored Parrikar to make the process of forming the masterplan transparent to ensure tourism in the state is inclusive.

Speaking about the need to banish casinos and massage parlours from the state's tourism offerings, Fernandes said: "They have brought a bad name to the state. What brings a bad name should not be part of the masterplan. We cannot generate revenue from vices."

Goa has nearly 20 onshore and offshore casinos, which attract hundreds of thousands of patrons every year. Massage parlours mushrooming across the state have also courted repeated controversy in recent times, with many raided by the police throwing up linkages to flesh-trade and human trafficking.

The masterplan, supposed to chart out a 25-year vision and a tourism framework for Goa, is expected to be formulated after "in-depth market survey of current and potential tourists, interactions with international and domestic tour operators, airlines and travel agents, Goa tourism trade interactions and general public interactions".

While the masterplan is expected to be delivered within seven months from now, a quantifiable action plan is also expected to follow, one which will aid its implementation.

A government committee is expected to monitor the output put forward by the consultants on a regular basis, a statement says.

Fernandes' letter is, however, cynical about the masterplan because of the hush-hush manner in which he claims the government is going about it.

"The plan has received the approval of the big business interests who praise the idea, knowing fully well that when the business flows in, they can work harder for their masters in Europe who will send travellers to Goa and then make the bucks. In that process, they will do what they have always done -- ignore the people of Goa and pocket their share," Fernandes said.

Calling the state government's agenda to use public-private-partnership method to create oceanariums, theme parks, shopping malls, marinas "elitist", Fernandes said all this simply means "there will soon be the great sale of Goa and the highest bidder will take home the product. Goa will be reduced to a mere commodity and the government will become the auctioneer".

Fernandes also said coastal legislators, several of whom are Christians, despite being briefed by the Church authorities, failed to raise issues related to tourism excesses and about the need to open up the process of masterplan formation in the ongoing monsoon session of assembly.

The Goa Church and its organisations like "Caritas" have a considerable sphere of social influence in the state where nearly 26 per cent are Christians.

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