The police department has received a list from the health department of 74 alleged illegal spas/massage parlours operating in the state so that it can take necessary action against them. Based on the complaint received, the health department had conducted an inspection of spas and massage parlours across the state and found 74 of them operating without a licence. There are only 30 spas and one massage parlours registered in the state out of more than hundreds operating in different parts of Goa, most of which operate along the coastal belt.
Deputy inspector general of police K K Vyas told TOI, “Action as made out according to the law will be taken.”Spas and massage parlours have got a bad name in the state for allegedly pushing prostitution and trafficking of women. During the last couple of months, Goa police has initiated a drive against several massage parlours and spas for allegedly trafficking women under the garb of therapists. More than 15 raids were conducted in Panaji, Candolim, Calangute and other places where police rescued over 25 girls including foreign nationals and arrested several people including customers.
Arun Pandey, whose ARZ NGO works against human trafficking said that the number of girls in red light areas has reduced and, in keeping with modern days, massage parlours have become the centre of prostitution activities. The Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) had shut down around 50 massage parlours and spas in the state for operating without consent to operate under the Water Act and Air Act.
Goa Salon and Spa Association (GSSA) expressed gratitude to the crime branch and police department for “weeding out” illegal establishments in a span of a few weeks. GSSA General Secretary & Spokesperson Sumeet Bhobe, CEO of SNIP said that the health department is confused between illegality and irregularities. He also said that the police should be designated to check whether there are any illegalities taking place in spas and not the health department. It is to be recalled that the GSSA is an active organisation in Goa which fights against the illegal trade practices in Spa business in Goa and this organisation came into existence to safeguard the interest of those running legitimate business and provide ethical services in this business in Goa.
Salon and spa owners in Goa are facing prospects of a shutdown due to increasing presence of dubious and unregistered competitors which are doubling up as prostitution dens in the state.
“Unfortunately, salons and spas have become the favourite disguise for brothels and other illicit activities. The establishment of a salon, spa, massage centre, beauty parlour or even Ayurvedic spa as a front allows these unsavoury characters to carry out flesh trade with audacity,” Said the Goa Salon and Spa Association (GSSA) General Secretary & Spokesperson Sumeet Bhobe “We were quiet and bearing brunt of this activity but now its time for us to speak out. Or else our business will be shut down on lines with mining industry or ‘Bhelpuri’ vendors which were shut down after few cases of illegalities,” he said further stated addressing the media in presence of other association members.He said that the association members employ around 600 people and such instances result in damaging their morale. Police record indicates that various raids conducted on spas since January 2013, had 76 victim girls being rescued and 31 accused including five women arrested for flesh trade.
GSSA Vice President Mario Barneto, owner of Neomi’s said that the association has been trying to create awareness among people, especially politicians, who are painting all the spas with the same brush. “Bad elements exist in every profession, every industry, in every walk of life. This does not mean that legitimate and honest businesses should suffer and face unprecedented hardships,” he said. “Saddled with humiliation and burning with indignation at the same time, the Salon and Spa Industry is being tarred with the same dirty brush used on perpetrators of flesh trade,” he added.
The Association has decided to submit a white paper to the state government listing various demands. Bhobe said that Salon and Spa industry should be brought under the banner of Department of Tourism so that it can be promoted and can become a better contributor to the state taxes.