SUN, SEA & DRUGS IN GOA

It is due to the persistence of Fiona MacKeown, the mother of Scarlett Keeling, that the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court convicted Anjuna shack barman Samson D’Souza for the death of the 15-year-old British teenager. On February 18, 2008 Scarlett’s body was found semi nude on the beach near the water close to a shack Lui Cafe where D’Souza worked. There appears to have been a conspiracy to hush up the case because the first autopsy claimed that it was a case of accidental death. When there were loud protests from Scarlett’s mother a second autopsy was performed which revealed that there were 50 injuries on the body including the pelvic area confirming rape. The second autopsy also pointed out that there was too little water in the lung to cause drowning.
A case of rape and murder was finally registered at the Anjuna Police station on March 9, 2008. On May 31, 2008 charges of rape and murder were filed against Samson D’Souza, 28, and Placido Carvalho, 41, after the case was taken over by the CBI. The charge sheet alleges that the accused administered drugs to Scarlett and raped her before drowning her. The CBI filed an additional charge sheet accusing the culprits of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, drugging the victim and outraging her modesty. Since Scarlett was a minor, the trial took place in the Goa children court which found the accused D’Souza and Carvalho not guilty. The mother, Fiona MacKeown, petitioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 29, 2016. The CBI filed a petition in the high court challenging acquittal of the two accused. On July 17, 2019 the HC convicted D’Souza the main accused but acquitted Carvalho. This is not an isolated case as many foreigners have died in mysterious circumstances in Goa.
Minna Pirhonem a resident of Finland who represents relatives of foreigners killed in Goa has commented that the conviction of D’Souza while welcome, does not increase the faith of foreigners in the Goa police. She has pointed out that in most of the cases the families do not have the resources to follow up the cases. It is the tie between the police and the drug mafia that is responsible for the majority of such murders of foreigners, specially women. In the case of Piromen her son Felix Dhal, 22, was found dead on the road in front of a three storied house in Patnem in January 2015. The police claimed he had died of a drug overdose. In July 2018 the High Court transferred the case to the CBI, criticising the police investigation.

To, Honourable Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant,

Who says there are no drugs in Goa? Peter F. Borges (CEO-Human Touch) writes an open letter to Chief Minister Pramod Sawant about how drugs are making inroads into Goan society. The long awaited judgment in the Scarlett Keeling case is a grim reminder of the easy access to drugs in Goa. Eleven years after Scarlett was drugged, raped and left to die, nothing much has changed…

Goa’s identity, besides, being the land of sun, sand, sea, fun, has over the decades transformed from being a pleasant and healthy tourist destination to invoking negative connotations to tourism by becoming a hub for drugs, affecting our image nationally and internationally. Drugs have become a scourge, whether in coastal areas, towns or villages. The scale of the problem is undeniably immense and worrisome.
I felt that I should be failing in my duty as a member of civil society if I did not attract your attention to the fact that the drug abuse in Goa has reached its peak. Today many youths have sought refuge in alcohol and drugs, leaving many parents and teachers wondering about the future of our country. The incidence of drug abuse disorders among the students is getting closer to epidemic proportions. The economic toll of drug-related illnesses is devastating villages across Goa and robbing the state of vital, employable citizen leaders of the future.
There is a critical need for addressing the issue as it threatens to erode the fabric of our social order with our future generations falling prey to drug abuse. Young people are the most valuable asset, but statistics present figures that portend a scary situation.
Sir, the response for the drug abuse has been pathetic. Awareness of illicit drugs, access to them and their abuse have dramatically increased. Despite significant gaps in information, increases in the abuse of major dependence-producing drugs are seen in the state. Reports from the media, NGOs, observations of experts, studies of education, work and health – all point to severe problems.
I feel pleased to share with you that Human Touch Foundation has been making isolated efforts with its resources towards demand reduction since 2011. Besides, conducting awareness programmes in educational institutions in vulnerable areas, Human Touch Foundation has launched a mass awareness campaign, “Get High on Life” in 2016. Recently, I have been encouraged and motivated by the personal efforts of Smt. Chandan Chowdhary, SP (North Goa) to join hands with us and strengthen the campaign.
Learning from the experiences, I further propose the following recommendations that your government can take by giving more considerable attention to the issue of drug abuse. Your government, through your predecessor, late Shri Manohar Parrikar has worked well to enforce supply reduction strictly. Further, it is in this spirit that I wish to set out the following main areas where I seek some action and reform:
1) Firstly, there is no anti-drug education strategy in the state imparted via a school curriculum. Drafting a uniform curriculum for schools and its implementation is, in fact, long overdue. It is significant and even more crucial now to empower our young people with the necessary skills in resisting addiction. It’s time for educational institutions to recruit and train certified counsellors as part of their staff to help students deal with educational stress and problems like low self-esteem, lack of confidence, etc.
2) Secondly, reducing the demand for drugs through treatment and rehabilitation and creation of a supportive environment for the drug demands is a prerequisite before tackling illicit trafficking. Also, an essential element towards the recovery of drug users is the need to work with their families. In many cases, the families’ response to drug use is extreme anger and negativity. It stands that many users don’t inform their families about it due to the repercussions of divulging the fact. While it will be traumatic for the family to accept such facts about their family members, there is a need to work with these families to help them deal with the crisis and also develop their coping mechanisms. This, in turn, will help them to become the much-required support system for the clients.
3) Thirdly, since resources for specialized assistance for persons with drug problems are very less in the state, and the drug menace penetrating rural areas, existing primary health care settings and networks should be adapted to care for drug abusers. The general health workers should receive training to deal with alcohol and drug problems, especially in counselling and crisis management of early phases of cases of substance abuse disorders.
4) Fourthly, what is need the most is the investment by the government on both, primary prevention and rehabilitation. Good infrastructure setup of certified rehabilitation centres where the workforce is clinically trained to look after addicts will immensely contribute towards the ecosystem of mental health recovery programmes. A professionally run set-up will plug an essential gap in the welfare and rehabilitation of addicts back into society by allowing them also to earn a livelihood.
5) Lastly, it’s time for a State Drug Policy. The subject matter needs an integrated effort with the involvement of all stakeholders, a well-articulated approach based on evidence and commitment of resources. A good state drug policy and a plan of action would address our concerns and provide a fresh and lasting impact of the government’s effort to drug abuse. Furthermore, I believe this is both reasonable and in the broader interests of the state.
As an organisation, we are ready to work with you and your government to deliver your commitment. Each of the above points I have listed has value on its own, but combined; they present a robust plan that has the sign of creating significant and enduring change for our state. We urge you as a Chief Minister of the State of Goa to champion this effort and history will remember you as a Chief Minister who initiated a sustained programme to address drug abuse in Goa.
I hope this letter clearly explains my fears and concerns to you. We would like and hope you will consider our interests and our pledge, which I believe will better deliver your Government’s agenda.
I urge you to act fast, and we look forward to supporting and assisting you in this endeavour. I earnestly hope you will respond and not pursue the policy of silence. Kindly favour me with a reply on the follow-up action being taken by you on the suggestions in this representation.

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