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Goa gets set for Christmas, New Year but on low tourist arrival note



Rupesh Samant

Goa: As the Christmas and New Year season kicked off in the coastal tourism State of Goa, the industry stakeholders feel that there is a lack of response from the travelers to this beach destination this year.

While State Tourism Department too admits slump in the Hotel occupancies, they claim that the reason for reduction of tourists are various.  State Tourism department said that all the arrangements are in place to welcome the visitors, and in the coming days, the number of footfalls is going to increase.

Goa has been favourite destination for the domestic and international travelers to usher in Christmas festivities and the New Year. The state with 27 per cent Christian population has colourful Christmas festivities, which can be equated to that of the Western countries.

The Tourism Stakeholders like Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) claimed that the response of the travelers for Christmas and the New Year is lackluster.

TTAG Chairman Savio Messiah said that it has become a trend that the tourist arrivals are declining year-on-year in the State, due to heavy taxation and high cost of the holiday here.

He said that the corrective measure needs to be taken by the governments in the Centre and State but it has not been happening. “The hotel occupancies are around 50-60 per cent this year, as against the conventional figure of 90-95 per cent,” Messiah said.

He said that the trend of slump in tourist arrival was witnessed even last year after introduction of Goods and Service Tax (GST), which had hiked the room tariffs, exponentially.

“There has been reduction in the GST but that is not helping the industry to prep up the number of tourist arrivals,” he claimed adding that he do not see a bright Christmas and New Year Season for Goa.

Messiah said that the travel cost to Goa is also one of the reason as people find it cheaper to spend their holidays abroad compared to the western coastal state. He said the slump in international tourist arrivals has also impacted the industry.

The state with its unique culture of beach shacks has failed to attract the crowds on shoreline even on the Christmas Eve. Cruz Cardozo, who heads Shack Owners’ Welfare Society, a union of the beach shack owners, said that the outlets are wearing deserted look.

“Few Indian tourists have started arriving but overall there is a reduction in the business. We are hoping people to arrive for Christmas and New Year. The season is not looking as it was earlier,” he said.

The palm thatched beach shacks are one of the USP for State’s tourism industry, which are permitted on the shoreline only during the season. Cardozo said that the foreign tourist arrivals have gone down by 50 per cent and news about cancellations of various Chartered Flights is really worrying.

State Tourism Director Sanjiv Gadkar said that the dip in the occupancy is because of various factors. “But Goa is all set to welcome tourists who will arrive here for Christmas and New Year. The Season has just started and we are expecting many more tourists to arrive here,” he added.

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In the Spotlight

Can’t control alliance partners, when we can’t control our life partner: Mauvin



Team Spotlight

GOA: Panchayat Minister Mauvin Godinho on Monday said that in life, when you can’t control your life partner, we should not be speaking about controlling  alliance partners.

BJP MLA and State Panchayat Minister Mauvin Godinho said that there are bound to be issues amongst the alliance partners in a coalition government. He was answering a question about MGP, an ally of BJP in Goa, announcing to field their candidate for upcoming Goa Assembly by-election.

“There are so many cases where you cannot control your life partner, where are you talking of your political partner?,” Godinho shot back at reporters when asked about the bickering in the alliance.

When you run a coalition government, the problems are bound to happen, the minister said adding that the coalition partners who are speaking against the government now will maintain silence at right time.

“Everyone will toe the line of coalition when time comes,” Godinho said.

Godinho said that the government will have to put little extra efforts to solve the problems with alliance partners.

“Since in Goa we are in the age of alliance, naturally we have to factor in everything, including wishes, opinions of them. You have to put extra efforts to solve that,” he commented.

Godinho said that the BJP will win the upcoming Lok Sabha seats in Goa on the agenda of development.

MGP has kicked off rebellion in the BJP led alliance by announcing that they would be fielding their President Dipak Dhavalikar as a candidate for State legislative assembly by-election for Shiroda seat.

The seat has fallen vacant when Congress MLA Subhash Shirodkar resigned to join BJP in October last year along with another party colleague Dayanand Sopte from the Mandrem constituency.

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2019 will be year of Ease of Doing Business for Goa: Industry




GOA: Goa is looking at a giant leap in Ease of Doing Business during the upcoming calender year 2019 while improving its ranking compared to other states, the industry stakeholders said on Saturday.

Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a union of the Industries in the coastal state, claimed that the year 2018 was “work in progress” for the State, which has fast paced several initiatives to anoint Ease of Doing business for the investors.

“This has been year of work in progress for the industry. Lot of things we have achieved in ease of doing business,” GCCI President Sandip Bhandare said.

“Lot of things are happening on ease of doing business that is bound to have long term effect. The impact may not be immediate but since efforts are going on for last full year, the coming year we are hopeful that the things will improve,” he said.

Bhandare said this year has been spent in creating necessary infrastructure and many of the results will be coming during first half of 2019.

“It will become easy to start industry in Goa and there may not be much intervention from the government. This is also coupled with central governments efforts where they are also looking at doing ease of doing business in holistic manner,” he added.

Bhandare said that while we are improving our rank as per the Business Reform Action Plan (BRAP), we are also trying to genuinely see that we attract businesses in Goa.

“Our efforts are aimed not only scoring in terms of BRAP but also in terms of people coming to Goa. People should find it easier to do business.  Rank improvement is a step in a direction in making ease of doing business in Goa,” he said.

GCCI’s Secretary General R S Kamat said that as per the BRAP, Goa had hardly 18 per cent of the implementation which has gone up to 60 per cent during current fiscal and it will touch 80 per cent for the next Financial Year.

“In the new year we should have better score in Ease of Doing Business compared to last couple of years,” he said.

Kamat said that illness of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who also holds Industries portfolio, was not reflected in implementation of the plans.

“If CM was there it could have been faster. But despite of that all the departments are working at fast pace. The direction must be there from CM himself to do so. The work is happening at a very frantic pace,” he said.

Kamat said that every department has been given a time line and they are working at a steady pace. “All the departments will go online by March coming year,” he added.

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Goan muslim girl skips exam when officials ask her to take off hijab at exam hall



Short Summary

–      Safina Khan Soudagar refused to sit for her NET examination since she wasn’t allowed to keep her hijab on

–      The authorities agreed to allow her if she retied the hijab to show her ears

–      – She asked for the washroom to go and tie her hijab

–      She was not allowed to go to there and asked to retie it in public in front of other men

–      Safina preferred  to skip her exam rather than take off her hijab

Team Spotlight

GOA: A Goan muslim girl who had prepared all along for the National Eligibility Test (NET) could not make it up to the examination centre, at Patto in Panjim, Goa’s capital, because since she refused to take off her Hijab for the exam as directed by the authorities conducting the exam.

Safina Khan Soudagar, 24, told reporters in Panjim that she preferred her religious belief over her academic setback

Safina had arrived to appear for NET on December 18 at Panjim, when she was reportedly asked to take off her Hijab. When she refused to do it, the supervisor did not let her answer the exam.

The NET in Goa is conducted by officials of University Grants Commission (UGC).

Safina narrated the incident where she was stopped from entering the exam hall by a male supervisor.

“I was scheduled to appear for NET exam on  December 18 for the second shift batch. I reached the venue at 1 pm and the process of checking the IDs began at 1.30 p.m,” she told a press conference.

“When I reached, the official was checking the ID. He looked at my paper, he looked at me and said please remove your head scarf, as with it you will not be allowed inside,” Safina said.

The girl told media persons that she told the male official that she can’t do it as it is against her religious belief.

“He began arguing with me and consulted a senior official who was standing next to him (who was a lady),” she said.

Safina said that the male supervisor wanted to see her ears to confirm her identity on the photograph.

“I eventually agreed to show my ears and asked me to direct me to washroom so that I can retie my ‘Hijab’. They refused to show me washroom. Removing Hijab in public was against my Islamic belief because there were lot of men around,” she said.

“They further informed me that I will not be able to answer my exam with Hijab and I will have to sit without it for rest of the exam,” Safina added.

“It was a question about whether I want to answer the exam or I don’t. So I chose to keep my faith above the loss, that was not supposed to have happened (of missing the exam),” she said.

Safina said that while applying for exam, she had gone  through the rules on the website and nowhere it was written that there are dress codes of this nature “There was nothing regards to hijab or dress code mentioned. So I don’t think there was anything that they would stop me for my head scarf,” she added.

When contacted, a senior official from Directorate of Higher Education which is providing assistance to UGC to conduct the examination, said that “ Even a Mangasutra or any other accessories are not allowed in the examination centre to avoid cheating and also from the security point of view.”

“There are stringent guidelines by UGC to ensure that the examination is held in a very transparent manner and the officials were only following it,” he said.

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