March 3-9, 2014

Lionel Messias

Russian-Goan hostilityAccording to John Mascarenhas, south Goa district president, Human Rights Defenders (HRD), Russian tourists are not only doing business in Goa but are doing so by blatantly flouting India’s rules on how tourists should conduct themselves. He has proof, quite a bit actually, and has submitted it to the Chief Minister, tourism minister

According to him, “On the basis of RTI (right to information) given to me by the tourism department, if a foreign national is intending to work or engage himself in business activities within India, there are certain documents that become applicable to him/her.”

The documents he says, are: RBI clearance, business visa, FEMA clearance, articles of association (for companies), partnership deed (if partner is involved), certificate of registration (as applicable under the registration of companies), recommendation of airline/railway etc, certificate of registration (preferably from IATA), whether local permissions from chartered accountant/turnover duly certified exist.

There are a total of 554 travel agencies operating in Goa according to the tourism department.

“We have provided the authorities with translated versions of the web pages which prove that the Russians, by bribing locals (taxi-operators, rent-a-car owners etc.) with big money including foreign currency have employed them as well as illegally published pictures of their vehicles and their properties (offices etc). Some of these companies even operate from ice cream parlours and such retail shops.”

As for the rules governing travel guides, he says, “For monuments protected under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites & Remains Act, 1958 (24 of 1958), TA’s should deploy/engage the services of regional level tourist guides trained and licensed by the ministry of tourism, Government of India or other guides authorized by the GoI or under orders of the courts. For other monuments and destinations, the guides authorized under the orders of the appropriate authority, if any, of the concerned monument/destination should be deployed/engaged by TA’s.”

Russian Counterfeits

ROSSYANKA (http://rossyanka.ru)

  This Russian ‘firm’ was established in India in September 2003 as a tour firm. Following the increased arrivals of Russian tourists after 2009, it reportedly merged with two Indian transport companies Sai Shraddha and Surya Travels and became a tourist transport company named ‘Russian Woman.’ 

 Why ‘Russian woman’?  According to the company’s website the word ‘Russian Woman’ means “beautiful, warm, simple, and native.” The website explains that outside Russia, the words are “associated with hospitality and attention to all the guests from Russia and Russian-speaking citizens of other countries.”  It adds, “We speak the same language, know Russian and Soviet mentality and anticipate all your expectations from a holiday in Goa.” The company boasts that it employs guides from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Perm.  All the Russian to English translations were done by HRD.

The website says, “We are officially accredited to provide taxi services at the Taj Holliday Village, Candolim. Our transport office (‘there is a tour where we are waiting for you’) is next to this hotel. Also, for more than a year, we have provided for individual excursions.” The website appears to hint (from the translations given to us) that it works with “largest tour operators in India, Sita and TCI, which work with nearly all Russian tour operators, sending Russians on holiday in Goa, such as Pegasus."
“License: 15100903 23.09.2003. Re-registration with Department of Tourism, Goa, October 15, 2012.”
The address was given as: North Goa, Calangute area: Calangute road, Nicholas arcade shopping center. Our office is in the cozy cafe Baskin Robbins, slightly to our left is Hotel Don Trezzini and right in front of us supermarket Luma. Tel +91) 860-5515-934, (+91) 9890391997 (as parts of the translations were difficult to make sense of, we have tried our best to give you an accurate picture.)

TVOYGOA (http://tvoygoa.ru)

Office: On the main Fort Aguada road, Bamon Vaddo, Candolim, next to SBI, opposite Ruffles hotel (possible Raffles hotel.) Tel: (+91)8888717922, (+91)8888704005.              

ASIA AND I

The website of this company claims ‘Asia and I " is linked (not clear how) to tour operator Tara Travels and Services Pvt. Ltd. It claims the tourism department issued it license no. 541 issued by the ministry of tourism, Goa. It also mentions another license (no. U63040GA2010PTC006489) and it claims to provide professional Russian guides and interpreters (Hindi, English) to escort tourists in Goa and other states. “We develop any routes, designed just for you in all areas of India.”

TVOYGOA and ASIA & I are also involved in event management and organizing weddings on beaches without permission from the tourism department and charge from $1,300 to $3,400 per wedding. According to Mascarhenas, there is enough and more on www.goawedding.ru, www.rai-na-zemle.com, http://tvoygoa.ru, http://www.aziaiya.com.

 

AZIAIYA (http://www.aziaiya.com)

Office (north Goa): Candolim main road, opposite Soltitude, 300 mts from Lawande supermarket. Tel: (+91) 9923601564 , e-mail: aziaiya@ua.fm.

Tara Travels and Services Pvt. Ltd. Goa.

Office (south Goa): Colva main road, close to Margarita Club.

It claims to have an office in Morjim also and has been in existence for five years (license no. 541 issued by the tourism department.)

“Our Russian team lives in Goa, constantly working to expand our selection base personally, so we are fully oriented in each object represented in the catalog. Also, if you have problems on the site, for example, at check-in\villa our Russian staff does everything to address the conflict in the shortest possible time. Catherine Belyakov, managing partner, Tara Travel and Services Pvt. Ltd.” 

According to Mascarhenas, “The website of Tara Travel shows Catherine Belyakov as its managing partner and in the application form for registration of travel agent (Form-III), the name of its directors, partners are Rahul Balmiki and Gurudas Rajaram Kambli.”

He says, “There are two travel agencies operating within the limits of the Morjim village panchayat and have obtained NoC’s from the Morjim VP, but these were subsequently revoked. It must also be pointed out that the VP cannot legalize illegal travel agencies.”   

Examples of dubious travel agencies he says are Ananta Travel Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, shop no. 7/157/A, Bagwada, Morjim. The NoC issued by the VP says the director is a Goan, James Savio Souza, but the website claims it to be Anna Rogovskaya, a Russian national.

Anant N. Shetgaonkar (run by Tara Travels), H.no.669/ A, Malekarwada, Morjim.

Russo-Tourism Department Nexus

According to Mascarhenas, the Archaeological Survey of India has stated in writing that it has not permitted “guiding at any monuments to any individuals.”  But evidence that Russians are engaged in guiding at monuments can be found in the CCTV footage installed in the Basilica of BOM JESUS.  “I have submitted documents to the authorities I had written to which proves the involvement of the assistant director of tourism, Pamela Mascarenhas, who is looking after the travel trade division. She is involved in providing guide licence to three individuals without the necessary training course. Interestingly, Pamela Mascarenhas was herself a tour guide once. I also suspect a financial scam involved in authorizing the Russian travel agencies.”

The scam, he says, has resulted in dubious travel agencies being established.  Examples: Trishul Tours & Travels Pvt. Ltd., which is currently in ‘active status’ and was registered on January 27, 2011. Its corporate identification no. CIN) is U63040GA2011PTC006580, registration no. is 006580 and their registered address on record is: H. no. A-18, Adsulin, Benaulim. Trishul Tours currently has four active directors/partners: Yulia Lineykina,Alexander Lineykin, Vladislav Lineykin and Denys Linieikin.                       

“I have come across a company registered by the registrar of companies as an ‘import and export’ company, but we have proof that this company is operating as an illegal travel agency with the name Narada Travels Pvt. Ltd. Their registered address on record is: Flat no. S-2, Laximi Niwas, Annavaddo, Candolim.”

Narada Travels currently has two directors/partners, Lenar Sakhapov and Maksim Andreev. It was registered on January 15, 2013 and its CIN is U55101GA2013PTC007153 and registeration no. is 007153.

 The evidence compiled by HRD is indeed damning. “There is a person (a taxi driver by profession) from Salcette, who had made a big issue of objecting to the illegal travel agency Chillycherry Tours for the sake of publicity only.  He had other interests in mind.  We demand that he too be booked for being involved in illegal activities.”

Chillycherry Tours is run by Sunny Ravtani and his address is: 1st Fl., Near Kadar Supermarket, Above Cyrus Supermarket City, Benaulim. Tel:  +91-832-2770568, (mob) 91 -9011693061, 9594872273, email: Shaun2806@gmail.com, alternate ID: sunnyrawtani@yahoo.com. Website: www.chillycherrytours.in according to Mascarhenas in his official complaint.

There is also Alyona Excursions Pvt. Ltd: CIN no. U63040GA2013PTC007306, registration date August 23, 2013, address: 1-109, Ist. Fl., Durga Chambers, 18th June Road, Panjim. Name of Directors: Alena Blagoderava and Mayur Arjun Naik.

Ekaterina Belyakova, the be-it-all of the Russians and the games they play in Goa recently said this at a media briefing: “In my investigation I counted six companies operating illegally last season. This season I found 15 with no valid papers. If one does it the other thinks it is possible to come down and do whatever they wish. They're not afraid of anyone. I'm ready to cooperate with the Goa government and hand over this list of illegal companies to the Collector.” 

Goanspirit thinks the time has come for the Goa government to investigate Belyakova herself because everything Russian which goes against Indian law appears to have the Belyakova stamp on it. HRD have already belled the Belyakova cat and its ringing loud and clear.  It’s time now for the government to act.