“I am not in a mood to talk. Please go away and come back after a few more days,” said shack owner Phillip in Candolim. The statement surmises the mood of shack owners in North Goa as the tourist season slipped into December.
The mood is of gloom and irritation but there is also determination that is giving them the drive to live another day of pain, as most shacks are not fully operational despite the peak season setting in.
“The delay in granting permission is deliberate and the government knows best why. This should not have been our state since the process was started in March of this year,” fumed Cruz Cardozo, President of the Shack Owners Welfare Society.
Whilst the basic structures of most shacks are up and some are even serving limited food and drinks to customers, most are yet to obtain the required permissions and are feeling foxed by the licensing system in place.
“We are mentally sick,” said Francis Fernandes who inherited the business from his mother, who had started the first shack 35 years ago. “In those days, we had no lights and used ice to cool drinks but we never struggled to get our shack started,” lamented Francis.
“We are tired of the games the Tourism Department has been trying to play with us. We are being ridiculed by the government and it is a pity we still get them elected again,” said a frustrated Francis Fernandes as he supervised his workers setting up the toilet behind his shack.
The Goa bench of the Bombay High Court at Goa had stipulated in May that shacks be allotted two months before the start of the season, which starts in October.
The Goa Shack Owners Welfare Society had presented their version of the policy to the Department of Tourism in March this year and the shacks, after many twists and turns, were ultimately allocated in November.
“The government increased the security deposit from the prevailing Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh and reduced it to Rs 1 lakh after we protested. After the allotment, a string of licenses from various departments were strung around our necks,” expressed Severina Fernandes indignantly.
“We just got the health and excise licenses and have started our shack because we cannot wait any longer till all tourists go back. We have lost two and a half months,” complained Severina.
The mood of British tourists deciding to come back to Goa to avoid the winter in their country is not good either with many waiting for the shacks to be fully functional before their holidays come to an end.
“I have come back after many years and was happy when I arrived but have been waiting for the shacks to open as we normally tend to spend our day on the beach in the shacks,” said Gordon from Kent.
“We got our electric connection three days back and have not really been able to start our business full on. English tourists have started coming and a few Russians too with hardly any Indians,” professed Kumar who manages a shack specialising in sea food.
“Foreigners find our food expensive but our prices depend on the market price of fish,” added Kumar as he and his colleagues waited for customers. Foreigners normally come to the beach by 9.30 am and retreat to their rooms before sunset.
The new shack policy has upstaged the price of setting up shacks with the setting up of toilets itself costing each shack owner around Rs 50,000 plus.
“The Pollution Control Board increased its fees from Rs 7,500 to Rs 15,000. It costs us around Rs 10 lakh just to put up a shack,” lamented Soccoro as he sipped tea with his workers.
For the President of Shack Owners Welfare Society, fighting to get the policy in tune with the ethos of Goan shack owners was the first battle that was won but, with loss of time.
Convincing the government to refund fees of two months is another matter on Cruz’s head as he himself tries to get his shack ready for the season because by end of February the season begins to wane.
For shack owners in Goa this season, the government seems to have kept the whip whilst letting the horse loose with them.