Panaji, Jan 12 The real reason behind the decline in tourist footfall in Goa is the rapes, murders, random killings and crimes targeted against visiting tourists, Minna Pirhonen, mother of a Finnish tourist, Felix Dahl, who was found dead on a Goa beach in 2015, said on Saturday.
Pirhonen's petition with the Panaji bench of the Bombay High Court last year saw an FIR being filed in the mysterious death of her 22-year-old son. But the case was dismissed as an accidental death by the police.
She said a series of killings of foreign tourists had been brushed aside by corrupt authorities, and that it now weighs heavy on the minds of tourists when they think about visiting the coastal state.
"The main reason for this is the rapes, murders, random killings and other crimes against tourists and the international media coverage of these incidents worldwide. The main issues are not related to high prices, but are connected directly with these safety, law and order issues," the Finland-based Pirhonen said in a statement issued to the media via email.
Her statement comes at a time when Goa has seen a consistent dip in tourist footfall over the last couple of years, which has forced tourism and travel industry stakeholders to look for solutions.
On Friday, the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa blamed low tourist arrivals on high taxation, poor infrastructure, corrupt police who prey on tourists and rogue taxi operators.
Pirhonen insists that the key factor leading to the drop in tourism is actually a corrupt and inefficient law and order machinery.
"For years the killings have been brushed aside by the authorities and the police in Goa. The old tested and tried methods have been used to do nothing about them," she said, adding that police are extremely reluctant to register and pursue complaints in which the victim are tourists.
"The end results are that no one is ever sentenced for these murders and rapes, leaving the killers walking free to commit similar crimes again. This impunity practiced in Goa after serious crimes against tourists (and many Goans) is a systematic human rights violation performed by Goa police and other authorities," she said.
Pirhonen's petition last year, in which she pointed out that 245 foreign nationals had died in Goa over the last 21 years, had resulted in the High Court asking the state home ministry to order a probe into the deaths.
Goa is one of the leading beach and nightlife tourism destinations in the country. However over the last decade, questions have been raised about the issue of safety of tourists on the state's beaches.
The red flag was first raised in 2008 after a British teenager Scarlett Keeling died after she was allegedly sexually assaulted on Anjuna beach in North Goa.
After initially dismissing her death as an accident, the police, and later the Central Bureau of Investigation, were forced to probe the death, which led to the arrest of two beach shack workers. The two were, however, acquitted in 2016.