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Goa blues: Demonetisation played party-pooper in India’s tourism capital

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By Mayabhushan Nagvenkar

Panaji, Oct 30: In India’s holiday capital, demonetisation crashed the party for the tourism and travel industry, rocking the coastal state’s gravy-boat.

Goa’s tourism season begins in October as the winter sets in and winds up in March, with the advent of summer. Coming on November 8, demonetisation landed a sucker-punch bang in the middle of the lucrative season creating problems for travellers and other stakeholders.

“Foreigners saw a restriction on the flow of funds. Taxi fares shot up, making it difficult for them to travel within Goa. Indian tourists also faced restriction as far as funds were concerned,” Edgar Cotta, proprietor of Miramar Hotel in the state capital, told IANS.

He said major negative signs emerged when booking cancellations by foreigners and domestic tourists started happening.

Goa receives more than six million tourists every year with half a million visitors hailing from European countries who visit Goa to escape the harsh winter back home.

John D’Souza, head of operations for inbound travel for Eastbound Group, said that soon after the prime minister’s announcement, the situation turned desperate. “Czech and Slovakian travel agents were travelling to Goa for the first time. They did not even have money left for a coffee. And they were supposed to promote Goa and India as a holiday destination for tourists in their respective countries. Imagine what impression they carried back,” D’Souza told IANS.

The Goa Tourism department, however, does not agree with omnipresent tales of woe, insisting that demonetisation barely caused “initial hiccups” even as tourism inflow stabilised within one month.

“In fact, the distress of demonetisation did not really affect Goa in any way. Except for some initial hiccups due to cash-crunch, tourists continued to visit Goa and accepted alternate modes of payment and facilitated the state’s initiative for a cashless society,” Tourism Director Menino D’Souza told IANS.

“It was only in the first month of the introduction of demonetisation that the industry witnessed some cuts in travel plans from domestic and international tourists, but within a month the scenario was back to normal and we did not see any huge drop in footfalls,” D’Souza said.

Other stakeholders, of course, disagree.

“It created a negative impact on us. We had to suffer a lot to make ends meet and paying employee salaries was a total burden. As a result we had to lay off many good employees as business was poor,” said Sheldon Remedios of Groove Events, one of the popular event management companies in Goa.

He said that convincing clients to go cashless was “very difficult”. Now, the introduction of Goods and Services Tax was also not a healthy prospect, he said adding that “the forthcoming season also looks quite dull for us.”

Read more…Elusive targets: No appreciable drop in J&K militancy or fake money

Many businesses benefit from the beeline tourists make for the Goa beeches. Take the example of Smile Factory, a dental clinic in Calangute beach village known as a dental tourism destination. Dr Rachna Fernandes, who runs the clinic, must have seen the smile being wiped away from the visitors’ faces.

“They did not like standing in queue for hours for a couple of thousand rupees each day. They said they were here for a holiday, not to stand in queues for hours begging for their own money. It had scarred people. So those who were annoyed will not come back. Not this season at least,” Fernandes said.

Several of her prospective clients, who had pre-booked dental appointments before arriving in Goa on a holiday, had cancelled their arrival plans after hearing about the demonetisation decision, she said.

But has demonetisation spread the practice of digital transactions in the tourism hub?

Despite demonetisation and the subsequent emphasis on cashless transactions, only five per cent of the transactions were carried out by cashless means, D’Souza of Eastbound Group said. “Ninetyfive per cent of the transactions are still in cash,” he added.

IANS (Note Ban Series)

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All India Kisan Sabha to hold protests for loan waiver

AIKS will also extend its support to the protest march of ex-servicemen fighting for One Rank One Pension (OROP) on January 27.

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New Delhi, Dec 18 : Buoyed by the announcement of farm loan waiver by Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh governments, Left-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) on Tuesday said it will hold another round of protest in the rural parts of the country to press for a complete loan waiver across the country and guaranteed remunerative crop prices.AIKS will also extend its support to the protest march of ex-servicemen fighting for One Rank One Pension (OROP) on January 27.

AIKS General Secretary Hannan Mollah said that ‘rail roko’ and ‘rasta roko’ will be held in all villages to urge BJP-led central government to hike the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for agriculture commodities as per the recommendations of Swaminathan Commission and waive loans of all farmers in the country.

“The outcome of recently-concluded elections showed that farm crisis was one of the major issues. The Congress governments in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have waived farm loan because of the protests this year,” he said addressing a press conference.

“We have decided to keep momentum going till Lok Sabha elections to get our demands fulfilled. As many as 106 organisations under the banner of Bhumi Adhikar Andolan will participate in the protest,” he said.

The planned protest would be separate from the ones being held by All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) which represents over 200 farm outfits and the AIKS is also a part of it, Mollah added.

AIKS President Ashok Dhawale said Congress “showed no mercy to the farmers” by offering a loan waiver but farmers protests compelled it to do so.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath has announced signing off the file on crop loan waiver of up to Rs 2 lakh as on March 30 this year.

Dhawale demanded the cut-off date be extended to December so as to make farmers, who have taken loan this year, free from the cycle of debt completely.

The AIKS leaders asked Congress governments to implement the loan waiver scheme without riders.

“Loan waiver scheme with conditions was a bad experience in BJP-led Maharashtra. In another BJP-ruled state of Uttar Pradesh, farmers received cheques of Re 1. So there should not be any condition,” Dhawale said.

Newly elected MLAs from Rajasthan, Girdhari Lal Mahiya and Balwan Pooniya, who contested on Communist Party of India’s (Marxist) tickets, said they would take up the cause with the government to make farmers in the state debt-free.

Pooniya said farmers were “looted” by the Modi government under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, a crop insurance scheme, as the premium was high but compensation was low.

Expressing concerns over Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s remarks that loan waiver was not a solution, Mahiya said “It is hypocrisy. We will have to confront the government in the Assembly and on the road.”

Reacting to the NITI Ayog’s remarks that loan waiver is no answer to the debt trap, Mollah said the premier institution had become a “chamcha” (sycophant) of the BJP government.

“It is good for nothing. It agrees with whatever the government says,” he said.

On former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan remarks over the loan waiver, Mollah said “We know that it is not a solution. However, farmers are under debt because of low remuneration. They have been incurring losses for so many years. Let there be one-time loan waiver along with an announcement of the MSP fixed on Swaminathan commission’s recommendations, farmers will not need a loan waiver again.”

AIKS leader said they would meet Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh over agrarian crisis in the country.

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India retaliates after Pakistan violates ceasefire along LoC in Poonch

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Pulwama encounter

Srinagar, Dec 18 : India is strongly retaliated after Pakistan Army resorted to heavy mortar shelling    along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday.

Pakistan Army  violated ceasefire by indiscriminate firing with small arms, automatics, and mortars .The troops guarding the borderline retaliated and the  exchange of fire was continuing intermittently  when last reports came in. The unprovoked firing from Pakistan side began in the evening.

On December 12, an encounter broke out between militants and security forces in Sopore area.

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Winter session : Rafale disrupts Parliament for the sixth consecutive day

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New Delhi, Dec 18 : Proceedings in both Houses of Parliament were disrupted for the sixth consecutive day on Tuesday over various issues, including the Rafale fighter jets deal.

The Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day hours after it met as both opposition and treasury benches created a ruckus over the Rafale deal, prompting admonitions from the Speaker for being unruly and “worse than school kids”.

Following the first adjournment at noon, when the House reassembled, the scene inside the lower House was no different.

Speaker Sumitra Mahajan tried to transact the business for the day but was repeatedly interrupted due to the sloganeering.

“It’s not sending a good message outside. I have heard from people from abroad asking what is happening in the Indian Parliament,” she said.

Mahajan said she had received feedback that even school children behaved better than parliamentarians.

But no amount of chiding helped as the Congress, AIADMK and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) members trooped near the Speaker’s podium and started raising slogans against the government.

The Congress demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the 36 ready-to-fly Rafale jets deal with France, accusing the government of lying before the Supreme Court on the matter.

The AIADMK members wanted Karnataka to take back its proposal to construct a dam across the Cauvery river at Mekadatu, while the TDP raised several issues related to their demand for special status to Andhra Pradesh.

Both ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress members exchanged heated arguments, with the opposition seeking an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi while the other demanding the same from Congress President Rahul Gandhi for misleading the House and the nation on the defence deal.

Amid sloganeering, Minister of State for Corporate Affairs C.P. Chowdary introduced the National Institute of Design (Amendment) Bill 2018.

As the din continued, Mahajan urged the members to go back to their seats and allow the House to function smoothly.

“Parliament is for debate and discussion, but this is not the way. This session is very important and we all have to face elections next year. The government is ready for discussion.

“We have a responsibility. We have to maintain the standard of Parliament,” she said.

Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said that opposition was ready for discussion and urged the government to accept the demand for JPC probe into the Rafale deal.

“We respect democracy. But the Prime Minister is silent. We are demanding a JPC probe into the Rafale deal. The deal was discussed at length during the No-Confidence Motion.

“Accept the probe for smooth functioning of the House,” he said.

To this, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the government was ready for discussion on any issue but the JPC probe.

“The need for JPC doesn’t arise as the Supreme Court in its verdict has made it clear that a probe is not needed,” he said.

As the din continued, Mahajan adjourned the House for the day.

Earlier, when the House met, the Congress, AIADMK and the TDP raised their respective issues.

Amid the din, Mahajan had to adjourn the House initially till noon.

The Rajya Sabha was also adjourned for the day minutes after it met in the post-lunch session amid ruckus by both opposition and treasury benches.

As soon as the House met, Congress member Anand Sharma raised a point of order and referred to a remark made by Minister of State (MoS) for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel in the morning with respect to Congress President Rahul Gandhi.

Sharma said Goel — who had sought an apology from Gandhi for allegedly making false allegations against the government on the Rafale deal — had violated the rules as the Congress chief was not a member of the Rajya Sabha.

He demanded to know as to “on what basis” Goel made such a remark.

This led to noisy exchanges between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Paty (BJP) members, who were on their feet.

In the meantime, the AIADMK members again trooped to the podium with placards.

Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu adjourned the House for the day amid the ruckus.

Earlier in the day, as the upper House met, members from Tamil Nadu-based parties — AIADMK and DMK — came near the podium holding placards and raising slogans. They were protesting against a proposed dam on the Cauvery river.

Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the most important issue was the breach of privilege of the House by the government on the Rafale deal.

Chairman Naidu said that he was “examining” the breach of privilege notices given by the opposition and would soon take a decision.

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