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

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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.”

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.

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Thane (Maharashtra) to be assessed for implementing district cooling system

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Thane (Maharashtra) to be assessed for implementing district cooling system (Image:wikipedia)

Chennai, November 2, 2017: Thane in Maharashtra will be the first Indian city to be assessed for potential for implementation of district cooling system, said the Indian subsidiary of Danish company Danfoss A/S.

In a statement issued here, Danfoss Industries said: “As part of the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, six cities in India including Thane, Pune, Bhubaneswar, Rajkot, Coimbatore and Bhopal have been chosen to explore District Energy systems.”

 “Thane – also part of the Central Government’s Smart Cities Mission – will be the first city to be assessed for its potential for implementation of the district energy system,” it said.

Simply put, district cooling is a system where water is chilled at a central place and is sent to various buildings via pipelines to cool indoor air using the air conditioning system there.

According to Danfoss, district cooling systems are energy efficient and would reduce total power consumption for cooling buildings.

The water is not for human consumption.

“With the Central Government’s vision to build 100 smart cities and the UN’s District Energy in Cities initiative, we are certain that the six pilot projects of District Cooling which are being launched today, will serve as an inspiration for the rest of the country,” Ravichandran Purushothaman, President, Danfoss Industries was quoted as saying in the statement.

“Danfoss has implemented both, district cooling and district heating technologies around the globe and we are now looking to showcase this expertise in India as well,” he added.(IANS)

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Punjab court summons AAP leader in drugs case

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Punjab’s Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira was on Wednesday summoned by a court in Fazilka town in connection with a drugs case, leading to a war of words between his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the ruling Congress.

Khaira’s name had come up in a heroin smuggling case after the arrest of some drugs smugglers by police in Fazilka in 2015. Admitting an application under Section 319 of the Criminal Procedure Code providing for adding additional accused, the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge in Fazilka on Wednesday ordered issuance of summons to Khaira in the case.

Slamming the Congress government for unleashing political vendetta against him, Khaira said that his summoning by the Fazilka court was “wrongful and erroneous” and “done at the behest of (Chief Minister) Capt. Amarinder Singh through his politically motivated prosecution machinery”.

“These maliciously false allegations of the Amarinder government are yet another attempt to intimidate me and gag my voice against corruption and other misdeeds. The conspiracy to nail me in an utterly false drugs case amounted to shooting the messenger and silencing the voice of whistleblowers,” Khaira told media here.

“It is sad to note, that while Amarinder Singh is blatantly shielding the actual drug kingpin Bikram Majithia despite sensational evidence against him, I am being framed falsely to settle scores,” he said, wondering how the additional Public Prosecutor of Fazilka could move a vague application seeking his summoning, when he was neither named in the FIR nor in the chargesheet nor in any statement of independent witnesses.

Khaira said that when the drug scandal broke out in March 2015, the then Parkash Singh Badal government has set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by the then IG Bathinda Zone, DIG Ferozpur Range and SSP Fazilka as its members.

“The SIT went deeply into the case but could not find anything incriminating against me because of which my name never figured in FIR, chargesheet and the trial. It is also astonishing how a court could summon him when the trial in the said drug case has concluded,” he argued.

He said that it was surprising that he is being summoned on the basis of call records which have been wrongly presented by the Additional PP to the Fazilka court accusing him calling the accused in the drugs case 78 times.

Punjab Congress President Sunil Jakhar on Wednesday said that Khaira had lost the moral ground to continue as Leader of Opposition and asked him to step down immediately, adding that the serious charges against the AAP leader called for his immediate ouster from all political and statutory posts.

“The Punjab political system under Amarinder Singh had no place for such criminals,” Jakhar said in a statement here.

He said that Khaira and AAP had taken a high moral ground on the drugs case and his summoning by the court had exposed their double standards.

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A frustrated farmer allegedly committed suicide by consuming poison in Odisha’s Bargarh district on Wednesday

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Bhubneswar, November 1,2017: After setting fire to his pest-affected paddy fields on Tuesday, a frustrated farmer allegedly committed suicide by consuming poison in Odisha’s Bargarh district on Wednesday, police sources said.

Agriculture Minister Damodar Rout directed the district administration to inquire into the matter and submit a detailed report within 48 hours.

 Villagers spotted Brunda Sahoo lying in his fields in an unconscious state in the morning and rushed him to district hospital where he died.

Sahu, along with some farmers, had set his standing crops, cultivated on a half acre land, on fire on Tuesday.

They complained that the pesticide supplied to them by the government’s Cooperation Department was of inferior quality and failed to save their crop from pest attack.

Rout said: “After getting the report of farmer’s death and pest attack, I have directed the District Collector to submit a report. Besides, a three-member technical team has been constituted to inquire into the matter.”(IANS)