The Boat Cruises operating in the River Mandovi are coming under the scope of Supreme Courts order and they will not be able to serve the liquor anymore since the excise department will not renew their licenses after the 31st March 2017, said the sources. Meanwhile, the Casinos gets an immunity from this, since they are placed beyond 800 meters from the Mandovi Bridge which is connected to the national highway 17. The cruise boat owners which also includes the tourism department of Goa are not happy with this new development and decided to join the hands with National Highways Liquor Vendors to challenge the Supreme Court Order.
The tourism industry of Goa that is already going through the bad times due to the aftereffects of the demonetisation is now getting ready to fight the monster of Supreme Court order of liquor ban in the state. Due to the order of the supreme court, the bar and restaurants falling within the distance of 500 meters from the national and state highways will not be able to serve the liquors anymore and the liquor shops will have to be closed down. Since all the licenses need to be renewed by the end of March every year, the excise department has decided to not to renew any of them after 31st March, in the wake of supreme court orders.
It is very much evident that the supreme court order will adversely affect the tourism industry of Goa which has already slowed down due to the demonetisation, said the sources. According to the news published by the local daily Herald, In what could be another big blow to the State tourism industry, the Supreme Court order to ban the sale of liquor within 500 meters of highways will also affect the tourist boat cruises anchored in River Mandovi. Surprisingly, while these boats will get affected, the offshore casinos in the same river may not be touched because they are 800 meters from the “highway”, said the sources.
Meanwhile, the excise department has said that they are still doing a study on the issue of the Casino Boats but according to them, Prima Facie it appears to be beyond the line of 500 meters from the Mandovi Bridge which is connected to the national highway 17, said the sources. “In case if any casino vessel falls within the 500-metre line we will not renew their license, but according to the Google map the first casino is at 800 meters from the Mandovi bridge (which is National Highway 17),” Excise Commissioner Menino D’Souza told Herald. This confirms the immunity to the casinos at the moment.
The sources have further stated that, while the offshore casinos could remain immune to the ban, the licenses of boat cruises will not be renewed anymore as they are stationed right under the Mandovi bridge. “We will see what best can be done, right now we have to go as per the law and licenses will not be renewed beyond March 31,” D’Souza stated. He, however, said they will have to wait and see if there is any revision of the order.
According to the sources, there are four boat cruises operating in the River Mandovi at Santa Monica Jetty. Santa Monica Cruises belongs to GTDC (Goa Tourism Development Corporation), The Paradise Cruise of Madagascar’s, Coral Cruises belongs to Models and The sunset cruises belong to former MLA Nirmala Sawant. Presently all the cruise boats are permitted to serve the alcohol on board while the new development will ban the alcohol on these boats. The excise department will not renew the licenses of any of the cruise boats after the deadline of 31st March 2017, said the sources.
Mr. Annand Madgavkar of Paradise Group said that it is a ridiculous order and the state government needs to step in at the earliest. “I think the order needs to be reviewed. Just like Tamil Nadu did it for Jallikattu we too have to come out with a similar solution,” he told Herald adding, “We will be more justified as our economy depends on tourism.” He, however, agreed that the police must strictly implement the law viz-a-viz drunk driving. “Banning the sale will not serve the purpose. If someone wants to drink, he will always go 500 meters inside and drink,” he stated. He also added that the boat cruise owners will join the National Highway affected Liquor Vendors in challenging the order. “There is no point fighting separately, we will join the people who are already fighting against it.”