If you’re looking for a merry time this Christmas and New Year, best give Goa a skip.
Following intelligence reports of a possible terror strike in Goa, the coastal state’s beaches have become a virtually a watered down version of Normandy in World War II, with sand-bagged bunkers dotting virtually every beach, and the security personnel positioned within, armed to the teeth.
Goa in December 2008 is certainly not the place for a sociable guzzle on the beach watching the sun set. Not with a gun looking down at you from turrets.
Fear of a terror strike in Goa was festered after a Cabinet note was leaked to the media. The note mentioned ‘specific inputs of a possible terror strike in Goa by the Al Qaeda’.
“We are ramping up precautions this year. Special towers have been set up on the beaches with armed police personnel keeping a watch. Nearly every beach which attracts tourists has bunkers in place so that security personnel have some kind of cover to retaliate from in case of a terrorist attack,” Superintendent of Police (Criminal Investigation Department) Atmaram Deshpande told the Hindustan Times on Wednesday.
Security in Goa has been entrusted in the care of nearly 5,000 state police personnel and 700 para military troopers, who have been posted throughout the state.
Not surprisingly, the number of tourists coming to Goa this year has shrunk considerably.
“I have been running shacks here (on Baga beach) for the last eight years. Never has it been so bad. I have lost more than 60 per cent of my business. And with the government cancelling beach parties, how are we supposed to recover the money we invested?” asked Joe Lobo, who runs a shack near the river-end of the popular Baga beach.
“The number of chartered flights to Goa is the same but the actual arrivals in terms of passengers on board have suffered,” said Ernest Dias, vice president of Sita travels, one of the biggest charter handlers in Goa.