Couples can now say goodbye to romantic walks under the moonlight or private candlelight dinners on some of Goa's beaches. If the government has its way, popular beaches across North and South Goa may soon be all lit up to ensure the safety of tourists.
This decision has been taken following the increasing number of rapes, murders and muggings on the beaches when tourists walk in isolated places at night. Goa earned a bad name when British teenager Scarlett Keeling was allegedly raped and murdered in February, 2008, on Anjuna beach.
While Scarlett's mother Fiona MacKeown is still fighting the case in the courts, the proposal to light up the beaches has been made after the police conducted a security survey of major tourist hotspots in their jurisdiction and found that at many of the popular beaches frequented by tourists, especially foreigners, there is no proper illumination. The police has identified the Vagator, Anjuna and Candolim beaches in North Goa and Arossim, Utorda, Cansaulim, Velsao, Majorda, Betalbatim and Benaulim beaches in South Goa for focused lighting.
The murder of 15-year-old British tourist Scarlett Keeling nearly three years ago in Goa literally rocked one of India's most famous tourist destinations.
"I'm here because of my daughter. I want justice for my daughter. She was a little girl," said Fiona, determined to seek justice.
Scarlett's severely bruised naked body was found in Goa's Anjuna beach. At first the Goa police dismissed it as a drowning death, but her mother fought to have the case re-examined and the second autopsy showed the death was homicidal.Two locals, Placido Carvalho alias Shanaboy and a drug dealer and barman Samson D'Souza, were arrested in connection with Scarlett's murder and were charged with drugging, raping and leaving Scarlett to die on the shore.
The case was handed over to the CBI after her mother repeatedly accused the local police of a massive cover up.
But today the two accused are out on bail and face much weaker charges of destroying evidence and administering drugs. Such offences usually carry a maximum penalty of 8 years in prison.
"Because was handed over the case so late, crucial evidence was lost and charges diluted. Homicide was reduced to culpable homicide not amounting to murder and rape was watered down to assault," said Vikram Verma, Fiona's lawyer.
Scarlett's mother, Fiona who was also targeted for being negligent towards her teenage daughter and later for profiting from her death by being a part of a documentary on the case, is still waiting to get her daughter's body.
So far there has been very little direct evidence in the case. Though Fiona's testimony is symbolic, it may not provide clinching evidence in the case.
"Foreign tourists walk around the beaches during odd hours. In the darkness, they become vulnerable," said a senior police official, part of a high-level team that discussed ways to reduce risk for tourists. Confirming that the tourism department is committed towards lighting up the beaches and ensuring adequate lighting arrangement along the roads that lead to the state's
coastline, tourism director Swapnil Naik said, some beaches already have some lighting, but they are not functional. "The repairs on majority of the beaches are being undertaken by the electricity department. The electricity department will shortly submit an estimate for the lighting after which we will arrange for funds."