Five months after the arrest of Russian Andre by the Narcotic Control Bureau (NCB) in Ashvem, Mandrem, Clifford D’souza the local who had rented his room to the foreigner was picked up by the same organisation for abetment.
“Clifford was arrested for being a conspirator. There was no rent agreement, payment was done in cash with an individual who had no valid visa or passport,” Sanjay Singh of NCB said.
After the arrest of Andre, Clifford had told GT Digital (see story of May 3), “I never thought he would be using my room to sell drugs. It came as a shock to me.”
Not many locals were fully convinced of this for there is another part to the story of Ashvem’s tourism. Most houses in Ashvem are close to the beach, but with the village opening up to tourism, a lot of apartments, houses and rooms have been built in the forest and are used mostly by Russians.
“The area behind developed after former Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar built a road and took electricity through the area for a dairy he had started. Since then a resort and hotels are coming up, but the demand is more for single flats,” stated William from Ashvem.
“That part of our ward wakes up at night. They sleep through the day and come to the beach in the evening and party thereafter. Their noise does not disturb us as they are in the forest behind,” said Francis who is appalled by the activities going on in that area.
“It is now evident that the drug mafia has descended on our village and with many villagers being innocent, trade appears to be flourishing,” indicated another villager. Clifford’s arrest could be evidence of this statement.
“Most Indian tourists prefer to stay close to the beach whereas Russians opt to stay in newly-built apartments or rooms in the forest and prefer to come to the beach in the evening. There is hardly any interaction with the locals, except with liquor or other general store people,” disclosed a resident.
The road to the interior is partly tarred and partly mud, with quarry pits filled with water. One mud road leads to a house wherein a board warns of the nuisance of a Rottweiler.
There is one general store that caters to the sanitary and basic needs of tourists. “A place for a day costs around Rs 2000 onwards and around Rs 30,000 per month,” disclosed the shop owner.
As Ashvem awaits Clifford’s return, a villager on condition of anonymity said, “We know that Clifford was arrested about a week back. We are told every day to expect him to be out on bail but today is the seventh day and no sign of him.”
“We have been informed by his father that he is in Colvale jail and that he sent a request for Rs ten lakh to get himself out but the father seems unwilling to cough up,” stated a neighbour.
As villagers brace for news of their fellow villager, the new tourist season seems to have started with twists and turns of uncertainty for residents of Ashvem.