There is something about the word “policy” that tends to impress people in government and arouse suspicion in the general public. The word “policy” without doubt sounds better than “circular”, “notification” or “memo”. It makes those in government look like highly intelligent beings, and they like to be seen that way.
As far as the general public is concerned, the word “policy” raises red flags and that is why the jetty policy announced by the Tourism Department drew widespread protest across the state. There obviously is a large gap between government intention and public perception. This generally takes place when policies are drafted by people who consciously resist the urge to use simple language, in this case, English. And when one has to read 33 pages of bureaucratic wordage, the natural tendency to oppose flares up.
Thirty-three pages may be too much to read in this age of short attention spans and 50-word news reports. The government may be trying to slip in something more sinister. In this case, activists have raised the fear that every jetty in the state could be used to transport coal. Also, the question of handing over jetties to private parties is deeply unsettling because of governments’ traditional tendency to crawl when asked to bend. The attempt by several governments to construct two marinas is still fresh in the collective memory of the state.
The question at this point is why does Goa need a jetty policy? Is there a huge demand for cruise tourism? Are the present cruise jetties, mostly located along the banks of the Mandovi River, becoming overcrowded? Is there a demand from tourism stakeholders for more jetties?
Generally, a policy is supposed to answer all key questions and clear doubts. The jetty policy does not do this. A casual reading of the policy gives one the impression that the government is trying to resolve two issues — revenue leaks and facilities at jetties.
Truth be told, if this government cannot plug revenue leaks from ticketing, then it should resign and go home. How can anyone tolerate a government which cannot regulate ticketing in the age of mobile phone technology, sophisticated apps and online money transfer? On this point alone, the policy looks like an abdication of responsibility and admission of failure to govern. Or perhaps, this is just an attempt by the tourism minister to take charge of the casino trade through the back door.
One interesting aspect of the policy is the “carrying capacity of rivers”. This is a red herring. All governments like to undertake studies of this sort, provided the findings open the doors for more growth. Any study that places a cap on existing facilities will be dumped in the river. For instance, if there was no objection to casinos, by now the Mandovi River would have had 10 more, irrespective of carrying capacity or environmental problems.
If the existing jetties have unresolved issues, then the ideal thing to do is study the problem and recommend corrections. Sometimes the simple solution is to restrict the number of tourists by increasing tariffs and taxes, instead of spreading the problem all over the state.