It was a period when the government first allotted the location of a shack and only later took the fee from the recipient.� But some shack owners unhappy with the business potential of the location allotted to them simply rejected it and turned back home.� Wise to the situation, the government in 2006-07 reacted perversely - it took its money first!� It was reaping the benefits of another�s labour.� In that year the government earned a revenue of Rs 6,85,000 from shack licenses, in 2007-08 it earned Rs 5,55,000 and in 2008-09 Rs 7,72,000.

Goanspirit has a copy of the 2003-04 contractual agreement and would like to point out that it had 21 rules incorporated as compared to the current agreement which has 52 rules.� Apart from being further proof of how with every passing year the Tourism Department has tightened the noose around the shack owners, the 2003-04 agreement also showed how the so-called shack policy of the government was nothing but a built-in safeguard for the 5-star hotel industry which was slowly taking over Goa�s entire beach front and felt threatened by the shacks.

Either that or, it wanted total domination over the coastline.� This is what Rule 5 of the agreement says: �No shack shall be allowed in front of hotel property.� No shack shall be allowed in the area for fishing or water sports activities.� However, shacks to be allowed in such a way that view of the hotel is not blocked.� The shack shall be installed/allotted away from the water and towards the sand dunes close to the vegetation, so that free movement of visitors is not obstructed in any way.�

In fact, the closing date for shack licenses in 2003-04 was June 15 but was reduced to May 31 for the season 2012-13 obviously to reduce the business opportunity available to shack owners. The inclusion of sand dunes in Rule 5 has little relevance today because there are hardly sand dunes left in Goa after successive governments have turned a blind eye to the leveling of sand dunes by both 5-star hotels, the hotel industry in general and out of town builders.� A case in point being the leveling of a sand dune on Colva beach in March 2013 by the Mumbai-based Acquilla Properties Pvt Ltd owned by Dilip Basant Acquilla.

And it is only going to get worse for the little that is left of Goa�s beach front and other much coveted areas.� On August 1 even before its pending shack policy was announced, the Parrikar government decided to honour its commitment to the big hotel industry first, by announcing that it would increase the Floor Area Ration (FAR) by a huge 20 per cent for all old, existing and new four and five star hotels.� The very same day the lobbyist (nothing else) Travel and Tourism Association of Goa jumped into the fray demanding the increased FAR be given to other categories of hotels as well.� It is Goanspirit�s opinion that the four and five star hotels will exercise the strong influence they hold over the government and make sure that no one else gets this largesse.� It is also important to note that chief minister Manohar Parrikar did say that no more four and five star hotels would be permitted, which ought to have been the logical conclusion to such a far reaching policy decision.

It has always been an uphill task for Goan shack owners but not for others like Candolim�s Sunny Side Up built by a north Indian businessman on land owned by the Tourism Department way back in 2007/08 (read more on this next week).� In 2011, the shack allotments were made as late as October with the tourist season already under way.� �Only in 2007, 2008 and 2009 were allotments made on time,� SOWS says crediting the then Tourism Department director Elvis Gomes for that.� For 2013-14 and beyond SOWS wants a �ten-year long term policy?) so shack owners can plan their investments in advance like any other business community does.�

A shack owner is not a travelling gypsy, it says, compelled to pitch tent wherever he is not chased away.� �A ten year license will help shack owners erect high-quality shacks, take care of waste management and sanitation.� Otherwise, we have no choice but to improvise in the few weeks left to us owing to the perennial delay in issuing licenses.�� It says a superior quality shack costs Rs 5,00,000 to set up now and a simple one Rs 50,000.� �Give us a level playing field like you give every other player in the tourist industry.�

Looking at the totally chaotic and completely unregulated water sports activities taking place at Baga, Dona Paula and the calm river Sal, Goanspirit is inclined to agree with the shack owners.

(To be continued next week)