The rape and murder of the 28-year-old Irish woman Danielle McLaughlin highlights once again the issue of lack of safety of tourists across Goa. According to police records, as many as 260 foreign tourists died of 'unnatural causes' in the state between 2005 and 2015. Among them were 76 British nationals, including 18 women, 48 Russians, 18 Nepalese, 13 Ukrainians and 5 Germans. While most of the fatalities were accidental, a few were done to death. These cases, including that of Scarlett Keeling who was allegedly raped and murdered in Anjuna in 2008, increase the fears of tourists. The two accused in the Scarlet case were acquitted by the children's court for lack of evidence despite the Central Bureau of Investigation handling it, causing disbelief and disappointment among members of her family and foreign tourists at large. The matter is now in appeal in the High Court and they are hoping the order will be reversed.
Goa attracts tourists from different states of India and foreign countries and it is the duty of the state administration to ensure their safety. The authorities should ensure that the cases involving visitors are speedily investigated and decided in order to create confidence among them that the safety of visitors was an important concern of the state administration. It is not only foreigners who have died under mysterious circumstances in the state; even domestic tourists have been victims of plots of criminals. More than a decade ago a newly married couple was abducted and brutally murdered. In this case also the accused were let off for lack of evidence. The foreign media does draw a lot of attention to the cases relating to their nationals, and their reports highlighting the lack of safety measures for tourists, together with their commentaries exposing the slow and indifferent nature of investigation send out a message that travel to Goa could be unsafe. Although the media in other states of India do not take up the cases involving tourists from their states as zealously as the foreign media do, the state government should pay equal attention to the investigation of cases in which domestic tourists were victims in order to bring the culprits to the book.
There have been accusations of mishandling by police in the Scarlett Keeling case. A question was raised regarding their initial investigation which tried to present it as accidental death due to drowning. The mistakes by the police in conducting investigation might have caused loss of some crucial pieces of evidence which probably led to the acquittal of the accused. In some other 'sensitive' cases too questions have been raised regarding the professional skills and moral integrity of state police investigators. In the Danielle McLaughlin case, however, the state police have acted fast and collected crucial evidence linked to her rape and murder and also arrested the main culprit. Given the fact that the evidence in the Scarlett case was not found strong enough to secure conviction of the accused, the state police must be extra attentive and careful to collect all the related pieces of evidence in the Danielle McLaughlin case to get conviction for the accused. Convictions alone can prove deterrent to criminally minded elements and assure tourists that any criminals, who attack them, would not go unpunished. The state government, in consultation with the judiciary, should try to get special courts designated to dispose of cases of heinous crimes against foreigners.
Even the most advanced countries have not been able to prevent criminals from carrying out offences against visitors, refugees or citizens. However, the police in these countries use new technologies that help in quicker investigation of cases and faster disposal of justice. Goa could use technologies to its advantage to contain crime to ensure safety of residents as well as tourists. While it may not be possible to keep a track of the motives and movements of all criminally minded or intended elements, the state administration could use CCTV cameras and other technologies at tourist places including beaches. This will help in collection of data in cases of any incident and ensure faster collection of evidence and disposal of justice. These gadgets could be used along the roads, including highways, to serve as a deterrent for the criminals. As Goa's economy derives substantial revenue from the tourism sector it is necessary that tourists feel secure. If they do not feel secure a negative message will go and the number of tourists might start falling without us knowing. Once it starts falling it would be very difficult to arrest the decline. Wrong perceptions are hard to fight.