Residents line up for essentials in keeping with social distancing norms in Goa | Representational image | ANI
Residents line up for essentials in keeping with social distancing norms in Goa | Representational image | ANI
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New Delhi: Russian backpacker Andrei arrived in Goa in December 2019. He was having a swell of a time in the tourist paradise until the 22 March ‘Janata Curfew’ and the Covid-19 lockdown kicked in last week.

The lockdown left Andrei struggling for food, he told ThePrint, and he was also allegedly beaten up by police when he tried to scour the markets for something to eat. 

“I never imagined that a tourist could be beaten up in a country that claims to equate tourists to gods (‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ is the tagline of the country’s tourism promotions),” said Andrei as he waited for his evacuation flight to take off Tuesday. “Now, I will never return to India.”

Andrei is among an estimated 2,000 foreign tourists who were in Goa when the lockdown took effect last Wednesday, and the state’s BJP government under Chief Minister Pramod Sawant launched an allegedly ham-handed campaign to enforce it.

But it wasn’t just the dismal administrative conduct that left tourists at sea. Multiple tourists told ThePrint that friendly local residents turned hostile as concern about the pandemic deepened and restrictions on movements began. Some claimed tourists were addressed as “corona” and thrown out of some hotels as reports about the rising incidence of Covid-19 made local residents suspicious about foreigners.


Also Read: Goa brewery offers free hand sanitiser refills to anyone who shows up with empty bottles


A ‘horrible’ situation 

As the state’s borders were sealed in the immediate aftermath of the lockdown, no truck was allowed from Karnataka or Maharashtra into Goa to ferry the essentials that the government promised would remain in circulation.

A few trucks did arrive, but supplies didn’t immediately reach shops.

Reports of low supplies, closed shops and long queues at the few open establishments were worsened by accounts — from tourists as well as residents — of assault by police as well as the paramilitary personnel called in by the state government to implement the lockdown.

It was only eight days into the lockdown that the Goa government relaxed transit rules to ease the supply chain, and issued more travel passes to pharma and factory workers.

French tourist Verona described the situation in the initial days of the lockdown as “horrible”. “Shopkeepers were scared to open shops… The only shop that was open in Arambol had a huge queue,” she said of her first night of the lockdown. 

“When my turn came, only one pineapple was left. I had two meals from the pineapple… There was nothing except booze and biscuites. Local police threatened us not to come out again…” she added. “We have very sad memories and spent a horrifying night in Goa.” 

A Russian couple holidaying in North Goa said it was “sudden and unexpected” how “local people who were usually extremely friendly, shining with smiles and amicability, became hostile and suspicious”. “Some started screaming ‘corona’ at foreigners, some were throwing stones and sticks,” said one of them. “Somehow, there are strong rumours in India that the coronavirus was brought to India by foreigners and that every foreigner is a potential threat and should be expelled.” 

The couple said the situation was particularly grave in north Goa, particularly state capital Panaji, and islands like Divar and Chorao. 

Russian tour operator Victoria backed the couple’s claims. “Used to a red-carpet welcome in India, foreigners have been at the receiving end of a hostile local population,” she said. “They believe foreigners are carriers of the coronavirus. In several parts of north Goa, villagers forced guest house owners to evict all foreign tourists over fears… Two tourists in Anjuna spent the night on the roads.” 

Over 925 foreigners from France, Sweden, Finland and Russia, among other countries, have left for their countries from Goa since 25 March, with around 133 Russians leaving Tuesday. Around 1,000 tourists, however, are still to be evacuated.

The Union Ministry of Tourism woke up to the situation of tourists in Goa as well as the country at large on 31 March, when it set up an exclusive portal for ‘foreigners stranded in India’, which is said to have received hundreds of complaints since.


Also Read: Cancellations, no guests, simple ceremonies — how coronavirus has hit big fat Indian wedding


‘Zero preparation’

Writer Vivek Menezes, the curator of the Goa Arts and Literature Festival, said the state had implemented the “lockdown with zero preparation”. 

“The Goa leadership managed this situation with extraordinary carelessness and chaos,” he added. “People were stranded, supply lines severed, bread delivery men stopped, fishermen not given passes, there were no groceries available for four-five days.” 

Pointing out that Goa was the only state that had invited central paramilitary forces to implement the lockdown, he said, “Paramilitary personnel assaulted people and humiliated foreigners. Kerala implemented the lockdown with great precision but Goa was utter chaos.”

He added that the government did not publish any toll free number, and even police failed to act in a humanitarian way. 

Following multiple reports of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel assaulting people, local residents and foreigners, for alleged violations of the lockdown, the Goa Human Rights Commission asked the central and state governments to file a reply. The central government subsequently informed the commission that it had launched an inquiry into the incident.

CISF commandant N. Mrinal also told the commission that the force will take “proper action against erring officials”.

Goa Inspector General of Police Jaspal Singh, who is now getting praise for helping residents deal with the lockdown, said they had come to know about “two to three cases of foreigners being beaten up”. “We are ascertaining facts. Shortage of supply and abuse were reported from two-three pockets but not across Goa… a few cases were reported in North Goa,” he added. 

Asked about reports of discrimination, he said stringent instructions had been issued to hotels and home stays against misbehaving with tourists.

Speaking to ThePrint, Goa Health Minister Vishwajit Rane acknowledged that there might have been some difficulties in supplies in the initial days of the lockdown. “But once supply was restored, the situation became perfectly fine… In every complaint, police personnel have been reaching out to the public to assist them.” 

In light of the initial chaos, Chief Minister Sawant is now regularly briefing the media. The government has published toll-free numbers and also engaged civil society.


Also Read: Govt health experts recommend lockdown extension as migrant exodus ‘undermines’ containment


 

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31 Comments Share Your Views

31 COMMENTS

  1. This is an extreme biased and one sided portrayal of the situation. Agreed there were problems in the initial few days due to lack of planning and preparedness. But this was normal if seen in context. The government acted in time, yes it was done arbitrarily and without giving the citizens time to prepare. But in hindsight, it was necessary and probably saved lives. After realisation dawned, necessary steps were taken and the supply chain improved. I deliberately use the word “improved” and not “normalised”, because there is nothing “normal” about anything in this situation. We are in unchartered territory. Uncertainty is the new “normal”. But coming back to the topic at hand, being a travel agent in Goa, I know scores of foreign tourists who are still around, who chose to stay back only because they perceived it to be, in their own words, “safer” here, than in their own countries. This inspite of having an option of returning on the charter flights that they could have sought recourse to. How about that? I have read accounts on their Facebook pages, about how their landlords and neighbours helped them procure groceries and other essential commodities. About how people inquired about their well-being. I myself have done phone recharges for them, so they could stay connected, television top-ups so they could watch television, offered advice on flight rebookings and cancellations, disseminated information and updates about rescue flights on their Whatsapp groups etc. I would love to put you in contact with countless beneficiaries of the above if you would extend me the courtesy of telling your readers the “other” side of the story. You have my email address below. Please free to contact me.

  2. Nonsense and exaggeration… Law applies to all.. World is at a lock down stage .. And a Russian speaking of india.. BTW hello russia are the lords of dictatorship Wher citizens r treated like shit I mean dirt… I wonder Wat is the treatment u get back home ? And in a lock down u wud have been jailed bak home in Russia.. Last 2 months locals have been struggling themselves here..but I haven’t heard of any unpleasant incident in goa so m surprised if this even happened

  3. I would say foreigntourist / indian domestic tourist dont come to goa and boost Goa tourism as can be seen how the local goan goan police and the CM of goa have behaved with the tourist in lockdown.
    Let Goa and Goans rot and fend for themselves post Lockdown in this year tourist season e, becoz these fake local and goa govt will woo the the tourist with greed in their eyes but at time like today tourist who are stranded are given 3rd degree treatment.
    CM GOA took the help of CRSF personel in goa why ? Coz he is incompetent not at par with late Manhoar parrikar who would gave handeled the present situation with expertise.Wen other states in lockdown kept stores ,supermarts open the goa govt made total shut down of essentials for the 1st week and gave hardship to the citizen and tourisr.
    Police beating up and bullying people who were searching for bread or milk.
    Is Goa still in portugual nostaliga ?
    So tourist from foreign land and indian tourist do not come to goa to spend your money go to kerela or other parts of india where u would get respect and welcome. Boy cott Goa from your itenary let the rude local goans and goa govt learn a lesson

  4. In Kolkata, people .are spending a holiday season …. Most shops are open. People are going out every morning to buy their favourite fishes and vegetables… No police on the roads. Many Muslims from Tablighi Jamaat returned here. 13 are untraceable… People burst Diwali crackers on 9 pm, yesterday. State government told sweet shops to open and are manipulating Covid numbers…Two Muslim TMC councillors had even fought (with guns) over Biriyani distribution last week.

  5. I’m in Morjim. Inside the house for 16 days now but have seen drunken tourists on the road outside our house. They laugh when the locals tell them to go inside and continue to break curfew.

  6. Well done Goa. These type of tourist done deserve to come to Goa. Corona virus has come to India through this type of tourist. We had some Muslims from different countries who came with the virus about whom the whole country is suffering. The opposition did not even bother to condem it. Beware of the Italians and other Europeans.

  7. Never in the time that I have been in Goa, we’ve had a worst government than the BJP. By calling in paramilitary and thrashing locals, Indians and foreigners alike they have proved to be worst than Portuguese colonizers. The whole scene is being managed in a very disastrous way.

  8. At this time we should coprate…….as in goa lot of tourist and atonce lockdown happens…This is time to help eachother….but some times some people suffer also…..it happens but it doesent mean that all r bad…..as all fingers r not same……so wat ever u r geting eat that time and see the situation. Rest its only for short time.Everything eil be ok.Thx. regards kamesh garg.

  9. At this time we should coprate…….as in goa lot of tourist and atonce lockdown happens…This is time to help eachother….but some times some people suffer also…..it happens but it doesent mean that all r bad…..as all fingers r not same……so wat ever u r geting eat that time and see the situation. Rest its inly for short time.Everything eil be ok.Thx. regards kamesh garg.

  10. I heard in UK about infected people from Iran, Italy and Spain were rushing to all parts of India especially Goa. so I am very pleased to hear Goa doing a complete lockdown and better than UK which is still allowing people from these countries into UK. Well done Goa more grey matter there than UK.

  11. Editor of this article is true congress supporter and it depicts itself in this article… May be brother or sister of times of india, rediffmail, ndtv

    I will say idiots… They go to any extent even during this pandamic…shame on u

  12. They probably deserved it, I have met some not very decent Russians in Goa who think they can do anything and act like big shots. Kudos to Goa police.

  13. Russell ian Duarte has made sweeping statements. I doubt whether he is a genuine tourist or a political activist maliciously undermining the efforts of Govt. Of India towards containment of the spread of COVID 19. Whole world including the Superpowers are praising India’s efforts. There may be some disruptions at local level in the wild ways of these foreigners. Since he has abused our top leadership of India i request concerned authority to cancel his Visa & enquire what Axe he has got to grind.

  14. A senseless act by the supreme leader of center. And a bhakt of CM of Goa, trying his level best to please the central idiot.

  15. The Indian politican knows how to Rob money from the poor people but they have not learned much to give back to the people by getting a huge support from Indian good people.

  16. Turist speak of bjp certain community…. Don’t like bjp and how ever in Goa no turist is harmed either Indian or foreign so pls don’t spoil it

  17. Turist speak of bjp I think it’s the cummunity …. Don’t like bjp and how ever in Goa no turist is harmed either Indian or foreign so pls don’t spoil it

  18. I am a local and I think these incidents are exaggerated as right from the time of the Janata curfew till today have seen foreign tourists at all the supermarkets which are open, in fact they outnumber the Indians! How do they reach these places if there is a hostile environment? We all are facing problems here and the tourists should be more realistic and understand that this not a holiday time with this terrible virus situation where all countries are facing problems including their own. So many of our Indians are also stranded in other countries who also facing problems as well.

  19. Let me analyse & explain –
    It’s not the locals’ fault if they called foreigners as “Corona” , ’cause somebody occupying a very responsible in position had declared that “only migrants & foreigners carry the corona virus but not the local. (This was proved false since all the 5 positive cases were of Goans with international travel history)
    Second, I pity the foreigners innocence since they believe the locals are friendly & ever smiling. It’s the other way. They are not friendly they are always on the prowl to loot you – be it a domestic or foreign tourists. Their wide smile is their weapon.
    Next, if the stores were empty & had no food to offer, well it’s because Goa still depends on neighbouring states for their essentials. Even after several years of liberation, other than Fishing & tourism no other industry is thriving nor do any major corporate houses want to invest in Goa primarily because of want of skilled manpower or educated youths.
    Then comes the attitude & ego. Terming all non Goans by all sorts of names.
    So dear tourists, if you have faced a hard time in Goa I apologise on behalf of all Indians.
    We still look upon a guest as God ( Atithi devo bhava). India is a vast & beautiful country . Do explore more of it during your next visit to India.

  20. This article is full of untruth. India is still wonderful and, yes there was confusion in the beginning of the curfew but now all its fine! Tourists are not being beaten up and there is more then enough food.

    • Thanks for your trust Sanne !
      It might be possible to happen something wrong with someone , very unknowingly and undeliberately during the panic situation. But certainly it could not be the intention to trouble our esteemed tourist. India is a great country , we Indians believe that “Atithi devo bhav”.

  21. Its a blot everywhere with and wherever bjp are in the ruling,, do we as tourists get treated like this,, beaten up when in foreign lands???? No,, its just here in India under the saffron brigade which has hiven liberty to beat up anyone and everyone, shame on Modi and his Govt,,, While he talks of PM cares,,,, could he,, if he was a true leader not started with himself and his cabinet ministers,, all tale pay cuts for the next six months,,,,, They pay no taxes,,, huge pensions and allowances and he begs everyone but cannot give a penny from his earnings,,,, Shame on him and his loud mouthed cabinet and union ministers

  22. They have with this stupidity ensured that foreign tourists will not come to goa .
    The cm has no idea of systematic implementation of lockdown .all cms should be first guided before they are given such a post .
    So sad indeed.

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