The tourist season in Goa starts again this November. As usual, state authorities and police officers announce measures to curb "rave parties" in the northern region of the coastal state. (To clarify, Western insiders call these events "trance parties", whereas Indians prefer the more generic term "rave" to include both rural trance parties and urban nightclub events in cities like Mumbai and Bangalore.)
For almost 20 years, the official anti-rave stance has functioned more as a rhetoric than any effective police repression. However, in the last two seasons, the mainstream segment of the trance scene has indeed disappeared. And, for the first time, Goa police will have its own Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) unit. Until then, special anti-drug operations had to be issued and executed from Mumbai central.
The trance scene in Goa is now limited to a few licensed bars that must stop the music at 22:00, and to a few micro-parties illegally taking place in the far remote periphery of the state. These are small events promoted by a few Russian and Israeli aficionados for the multinational hardcore populace of trance freaks. No more overt multi-day marathons for loud party tourists, while Goa is still visited by "shanti" backpackers transiting across the state.
"Raves" have become a nightclub phenomenon in urban India at large. Along with it, drug trafficking has emerged as a national concern: geographically widespread even if circumscribed within the upper-middle class youth. This week in Mumbai, police raided a top nightclub (72 Degrees East), detaining 240 revelers, mostly in the 20-25 years of age, 40 of which women, one Israeli tourist, and even a few Bollywood celeb connections... Police has arrested a bunch of drug dealers in possession of cocaine, ecstasy (100 pills), LSD and charas.
Yet, back to northern Goa, the economic importance of party tourism to local communities must be pointed out. Certainly, natives do not approve drugs or criminality; however, they do emphasize that their relations with the foreign youth have overall been quite positive throughout the years. Some research studies have even noted the positive economic impact that low-budget tourism has on local communities.
Not surprising thus, official decisions to eliminate the party scene are originated in the state capital city of Panaji. Northern villagers worry with the consequences of such central decisions, lest that their main income source will vanish. In the past, governmental measures were calibrated and even relaxed according to villagers' complaints, pressure (and also bribery) throughout the season. Yet, perhaps as these communities find alternative economic sources, they would become less inclined to defend party tourism.
Stay tuned. Global Raver will be monitoring one more party season in Goa Dourada!