Goa Tourism Industry In Turmoil: Huge Shortage of Fish Looms Over The State As 6-Month Import Ban Takes Effect

PANAJI: Even as the six-month ban on import of fish into the state of Goa came into effect from today, the Tourism Industry in Goa is staring at huge losses as exotic sea food is the backbone of the restaurants and hotels in coastal state.

The tourism industry stands to face a cumulative loss of Rs 70-95 crore, which can even go up to Rs 150 crore over a period of six months if the ban is strictly enforced, according to research conducted by IndiaScoops.com in consultation with various tourism, shacks and hotel and restaurant associations in Goa.

“Most foreigners who visit Goa during the tourism months from December to February patronize the sea-food restaurants. Various types of fish, prawns, tiger prawns, lobsters, etc., are the items of choice and the most patronized dishes on the menus of most restaurants. Goa is not able to meet the demand for this high-end, exotic sea food, including salmon, etc., which is in great demand with the foreign tourists,” said Adv Diya Shetkar, President of the Goa Citizen’s Action Forum.

According to a report in the Navhind Times, the Congress party on Sunday called upon the government and the Health Minister Vishwajit Rane to do a re-think “as it would put the state and the fish eaters in crisis.”

Addressing media persons, Congress spokesperson Sankalp Amonkar along with some youth Congress leaders on Sunday, warned that if the government imposes a ban on fish import without banning export of Goan fish, it will lead to chaos and confusion in state due to extreme fish shortage.

Amonkar expressed fear that the ban on import of fish will create fish scarcity in the state markets since fish is a staple diet of most Goans.

Elaborating further, he said that when subsidy of Rs 100 crore is given to fishermen, the catch should be enjoyed by Goans first as the money comes from the taxpayers’ pockets.

He questioned the government whether measures are in place to crack down on illegal import of fish particularly by buses, trains adding soon people will start bringing fish in their private vehicles and goods carriers.

Amonkar said that Goans should not suffer due to the ban and should get formalin-free fish and demanded that FDA officer Iva Fernandes be appointed as nodal officer.

The Congress spokesperson further said that the Health Minister Rane had made a statement that fish ban has been announced in consultation with the TCP Minister Vijai Sardesai and asked why this is happening when the state has a designated fisheries minister.

Alleging that the Fisheries Minister Vinod Palienkar is maintaining a stoic silence, Amonkar said that Palienkar should break his silence and come out clean on the issue and if he is under some pressure from anybody then he should quit the post. He said, “Let some capable person take over the post and handle the issue tactfully.”

Amonkar also alleged that the fish ban and formalin issue is a well-enacted drama by two ministers and fish mafia and alleged that only ministers and fish mafia are speaking but the fisheries minister is silent over the issue.

with inputs from The Navhind Times

RTI Activists and NGOs announce an indefinite fast unto death to protest against Goa CM Parrikar’s reluctance to hand over charge

The Goa Citizen’s Action Forum (GCAF), national RTI awardee Rajan S Ghate and NGO Nari Adhikar along with others on Friday announced that they would undertake an indefinite fast unto death to protest against the failure of the Goa government to find solutions and take action against issues like rising unemployment, rise in prevalence of gambling due to spread of Casino culture, failure of the Goa government including the Goa CM Manohar Parrikar to allocate important portfolios like Home, Finance, Industries, etc., to capable and responsible Ministers and others.

Speaking at the press conference held at Panaji, national RTI awardee Rajan Ghate who will inaugurate the fast unto death and social activist Anil N Laad said: “I am giving the BJP-led Goa government a notice of 7 days’ time to announce a solution to the issues like rising unemployment, loss of jobs, spread of gambling and Casino culture and the failure of the Goa CM Manohar Parrikar to allocate important portfolios like Home, Finance, Industries, etc., to capable and responsible Ministers, so that the work of these ministries is not hampered and is carried out under the responsible, day-to-day supervision of the Minister holding the portfolio.”

NGO Nari Adhikar along with the Goa Citizen’s Action Forum (GCAF) is carrying out a socio-medico-academic survey in certain poorer sections of Goa to understand the unemployment problem in detail and to study the impact of certain socio-geographical indicators over the overall health of the people of Goa.

Adv Diya Shetkar of the NGO Nari Adhikar said that the survey has already begun in the Ponda-Shiroda belt and we will cover the entire State in batches over a period of 3-4 months. Nari Adhikar and GCF strongly condemn the lackadaisical attitude and failure of the Goa government to address the unemployment problem in the state, which is causing frustration among youth and forcing them into gambling, drugs and other vices.

“According to information from the Govt of Goa Statistics Dept and the Personnel Dept, the new jobs creation (in the government sector) for the year 2018 stood at ZERO. This means the Goa govt has not been able to create new jobs for the youth of Goa. It has come to my knowledge that BJP leaders in Goa are selling government jobs to the highest bidder in their constituencies. Instead of giving out job contracts to Goans, former GTDC chairman and BJP MLA Nilesh Cabral has given out contracts for services like tea/coffee vending, maintenance and serving to contractors from Delhi who bring their own labour from outside Goa. These contracts are arbitrarily awarded for periods and durations of 10-15 years, without any bidding, which is completely illegal,” said Adv Diya Shetkar of Nari Adhikar.

According to activist Kenneth Silveira: the coalition partner of the BJP government, the Goa Forward Party had made Casinos a big poll issue and senior office bearers of the GFP had even filed court cases against the casinos. But after coming to power, the senior leaders of GFP have now withdrawn the court cases against the casinos and the reason is obvious.”

I have heard that one casino owner has funded the US treatment costs of the Goa CM to the tune of Rs 2 crore. The money was transferred from a US bank account of the Casino magnate directly to the cancer hospital where the CM was undergoing treatment.

The government has not been able to solve the fish traders/fish importers formalin issue. The Health Minister says  one thing and the traders say a different thing all-together. At the end of the day, it’s the common man who is inconvenienced and has to pay more as the fish mafia is creating an artificial scarcity of fish.

The local transport system has completely collapsed in Goa. Every day 8-10 buses of the Kadamba Transport break down on the road causing great inconvenience to the public. There is no proper maintenance of the buses. Due to traffic congestion, the buses arrive very late and the public are made to stand in queues at the Margao and Panaji main bus stands as back-up drivers are not available during peak hours.

Goa fish mafia earns a ‘minimum profit’ of Rs 5-10 Cr a month or Rs 120 Cr annually, most politicians, senior police officials, bureaucrats are either partners or get the best catch free?

Many Goans have wondered aloud on social media, in response to our earlier article, how the entire Goan government machinery and Ministers were ‘bought’ for just Rs 25 lakh (read here) by the fish mafia in the formalin-fish contamination issue that rocked Goa on Thursday?

Also Read: Should we give FDA Padma Bhushan? Vijai Sardesai slams media & FDA, calls journos ‘prophets of doom’ who made FDA director a ‘heroine’

Well, in our article yesterday, we forgot to mention that the Rs 25 lakh ‘bribe’ figure was possibly only the first installment or down payment.

Politician-fish mafia nexus controls import, distribution & pricing of fish?

According to insiders and people involved in the trade, the fish mafia in the State is said to earn a minimum profit of Rs 12-15 lakh per day in Goa after all expenses including transportation, small bribes to RTO/traffic police, labour costs, staff, and losses due to unsold or damaged goods.

Also Read: Fish Mafia King Maulana Ibrahim Funded and Actively Campaigned for Goa Forward Party During 2017 Elections?

Which means Rs 3-5 crore per month is what a couple of the big sharks earn in profits each month in Goa. All in cash. The minimum annual profit of a few big fish traders or the big sharks as we call them, in Goa is in the range of Rs 80 to Rs 120 crore.

Please note that these figures are not the profits on the total sale of fish or cold-storage fish in Goa. They are merely the profits of a handful of big traders who import fish in bulk from other states and can go to any extent to maintain and increase their margins.

Also Read: Rs 25 lakh ‘bribe’ paid by inter-state fish mafia to BJP-led Goa Govt to get a clean chit in formalin contamination controversy

Ten per cent of this amount would translate to Rs 30 to 50 lakh per month as kickbacks or ‘bribes’ distributed each month to politicians who control the fish mafia in Goa.

Now do you realize why some politicians were so worried about the formalin scare in the State? IndiaScoops.com in this article is not singling out or targeting any 1-2 politicians, it’s a disease that effects the entire system and everyone gets a slice of the pie.

Also Read: 28,000 kg formalin-laced fish, 6000 kg of formalin-soaked shrimp seized in Kerala 

And now do you realize why most of the senior politicians in Goa, irrespective of which political party they belong to have maintained a stoic and studied silence on the issue. The fish business nets profits of Rs 120 crore annually, 10 to 15 per cent of which goes into certain politicians pockets. The rest including senior police officials, bureaucrats and others get complimentary fish almost daily.

Do you know that when the first reports of fish formalin contamination came in early on Thursday morning, our Panaji reporter got in touch with about 8-10 senior politicians in Goa from different political parties. None of them were ready to speak on the issue and only said they were waiting for the results of the final tests. The rest you know is history!

Also Read: High levels of formalin, formaldehyde and other chemicals detected in FDA raids on Goa fish markets

Even the most honest politician in Goa, would have received the best catch from the big sharks ‘on the house’ at least several times a year, for family functions or events, making him perpetually indebted to the fish mafia. So how do you goenkar expect your MLA to come to your rescue while you are slowly getting poisoned by formalin?

Also Read: Formalin present, but Goa FDA ‘pressurized’ and ‘managed’ by a Minister and fish mafia to retract reports, manipulate tests

A reliable source who works as an office boy cum assistant PA to one of the fish mafia politicians tells us that even the price of daily fish per kg imported into Goa is decided by his boss (the politician) and not by the fish traders. The fish is sold as per the diktats of the politicians and not the fish traders, who decide and dictate even which catch or type of fish goes to which part or market in the State. The per kg retail price is most of the time dictated or suggested by the politician who controls the traders in the area. Remember, we are not targeting any one or single politician in Goa, this happens in all the zones in the State, and every ‘bhai’ or ‘patrao’ gets his package each month.

Also Read: MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco slams Goa govt on formalin contamination issue

Our sources tell us that politicians, senior police officials and bureaucrats in Goa get complimentary fish – the best of the catch almost everyday. Some politicians even order their daily quota of fish directly from the traders, without paying them.

Editor’s Note: This is a developing story. This post will be updated as inputs come in. Many people whom IndiaScoops.com spoke to are yet to revert to us with their feedback. You can send us your feedback and inputs on indiascoops AT gmail.com. We welcome suggestions and data from members of the public. We regret that we cannot individually reply to your emails or queries.

Goa MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco slams Goa govt on formalin contamination issue

IndiaScoops.com Bureau | Panaji | 14th July 2018: Curtorim MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco today criticized the Goa government for its lackadaisical attitude towards the formalin fish contamination issue. Speaking to media persons today, Lourenco appealed to the CM Manohar Parrikar to personally look into the matter.

Watch the video here:

Should we give FDA Padma Bhushan? Vijai Sardesai slams media and FDA, calls journos ‘prophets of doom’ who made FDA director a ‘heroine’

Panaji, July 14 (IANS) Goa Agriculture Minister Vijai Sardesai on Saturday accused the state’s media of acting like “prophets of doom” as major local dailies ran stories and editorials criticizing the government for its alleged bid to downplay presence of formalin in fish sold here and its flip-flop on the level of the chemical formalin, reports IANS.

Also Read: Rs 25 lakh ‘bribe’ paid by inter-state fish mafia to BJP-led Goa Govt to get a clean chit in formalin contamination controversy

Sardesai also told a press conference that the coastal state, a popular seafood destination, may ban bringing fish from outside the state in future if the consignments again test positive for formalin content, reports IANS.

Sardesai also snubbed a Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) officer, claiming the media projected her as a “heroine” and asked whether the Padma Bhushan should be bestowed upon her and the staff who conducted raid in the wee hours of Friday, exposing the use of formalin in fish.

Also Read: Formalin present, but Goa FDA ‘pressurized’ and ‘managed’ by a Minister and fish mafia to retract reports, manipulate tests

“You are journalists, you are the fourth estate in a democracy. You have an obligation to the people. You can’t be prophets of doom,” Sardesai told a press conference in Margao town in South Goa on Saturday.

“I am responding because editorials have come. I am responding because of the sensationalism which the media is presently (indulging in) full-swing. All sections of media, not only a certain section,” said the Minister, who is alleged to have backed a fish trader, whose consignments of fish tested positive during field tests conducted by the FDA. Sardesai has denied the charge.

Also Read: High levels of formalin, formaldehyde and other chemicals detected in FDA raids on Goa fish markets

Results of subsequent laboratory tests by the FDA on Friday, which incidentally followed a tweet by Sardesai giving a clean chit to the fish trader, said that the levels of formalin, a powerful disinfectant used to preserve dead bodies, was “within permissible limits”.

Sardesai also accused the media of sensationalizing the formalin-in-fish issue, saying that newspapers had portrayed the woman FDA Inspector who conducted the raid as a “heroine”, says the IANS report.

Also Read: 28,000 kg formalin-laced fish, 6000 kg of formalin-soaked shrimp seized in Kerala

“You have made her a heroine by splashing her name in the newspapers. Where is she now? Has she gone on leave?” Sardesai said, refuting allegations that he had tried to pressurize her after the raid.

Also Read: Fish mafia earns a ‘minimum profit’ of Rs 5-10 Cr a month or Rs 120 Cr annually, politicians, senior police officials, bureaucrats are either partners or get the best catch free?

Sardesai also slammed the FDA and asked the agency to be more vigilant rather than conducting raids “once in a blue moon”.

“Should we give them (FDA officials) a Padma Bhushan because they carried out the raid at 4 am?” Sardesai said.

Also Read: MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco slams Goa govt on formalin contamination issue

He said not just fish but eating contaminated fruit also causes cancer.

Curtorim Congress MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco today criticized the Goa government for its lackadaisical attitude towards the formalin fish contamination issue. Speaking to media persons today, Lourenco via a video message, appealed to the CM Manohar Parrikar to personally look into the matter.

Source: IANS

Rs 25 lakh ‘bribe’ paid by Goa fish mafia to BJP govt to get a clean chit for 17 formalin-laced contaminated fish trucks unfit for human consumption?

IndiaScoops.com Bureau | Panaji | 13th July 2018: After a very strenuous and tiring Thursday, president of the wholesale Fish Traders Association of Goa, Ibrahim Shaikh alias Haji Ibrahim alias Ibrahim Musa (different names have appeared in different news reports) and his colleagues and cronies and other big inter-state fish traders operating in Goa were sharing a relaxed cup of tea late on Thursday evening.

Also Read: Should we give FDA Padma Bhushan? Vijai Sardesai slams media & FDA, calls journos ‘prophets of doom’ who made FDA director a ‘heroine’

Though they were done for the day, and a big business catastrophe had been averted, their pockets were lighter by Rs 25 lakh.

Of course, this was only the first installment. Goans have wondered aloud on social media, how the entire Goan government was ‘bought’ for just Rs 25 lakh?

Also Read: Parrikar going soft on formalin-fish issue to protect Minister, Save Govt

Well, we forgot to mention yesterday that the Rs 25 lakh ‘bribe’ figure was possibly only the first installment or initial down payment.

The fish mafia is said to earn a profit of Rs 10-15 lakh per day in Goa. Which means Rs 3 to 5 crore is what they earn in profits each month. Or Rs 80 to Rs 120 crore are the annual profits of the big fish traders in Goa, controlled indirectly by their political bosses.

Also Read: Fish mafia earns a ‘minimum profit’ of Rs 5-10 Cr a month or Rs 120 Cr annually, politicians, senior police officials, bureaucrats are either partners or get the best catch free?

Ten per cent of this amount would translate to Rs 30 to 50 lakh per month as kickbacks or ‘bribes’ per month distributed to politicians who control the fish mafia in Goa.

A reliable source who works as a PA to one of the fish mafia politicians tells us that even the price of daily fish imported into Goa is decided by his boss (the politician) and not by the fish traders.

Also Read: Parrikar admits current Goa FDA setup unequipped, understaffed and incapable of properly detecting adulterants in food and fish across the State?

Our sources tell us that politicians, senior police officials and bureaucrats in Goa get complimentary fish – the best of the catch almost everyday. Some politicians even order their daily quota of fish directly from the traders, without paying them.

Also Read: Formalin present, but Goa FDA ‘pressurized’ and ‘managed’ by a Minister and fish mafia to retract reports, manipulate tests

Yes, you heard it right, Rs 25 lakh is the amount paid by the fish mafia to a coterie of Goa government officials, including FDA officials and Ministers in the Goa BJP-led government on Thursday to get a clean chit for the 17 formalin-laced fish trucks that were contaminated and otherwise harmful for human consumption and which initially tested positive for formalin in spot tests conducted at the markets.

This figure was revealed to IndiaScoops.com from very reliable and knowledgeable sources directly associated with the wholesale fish trade in Goa.

Many wholesalers in Goa are upset that they had to shell out and contribute huge sums of money to save the backsides of the unscrupulous traders who resort to “treating” fish with formalin. Not all traders use formalin every time to ‘treat’ fish, though most of them do at some time or the other, depending on the weather and the ‘catch’.

Also Read: MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco slams Goa govt on formalin contamination issue

Skeptics and  opponents of this report will rush to rubbish this post as fabricated or ‘fake news’ or mere speculation. But we at IndiaScoops.com have it from the horse’s mouth. There is no hardcore ‘proof’ as the blind supporters of the BJP-led Goa government and its Ministers will demand. This post is based on hearsay and unconfirmed sources, they will argue, but yes, some of the best and biggest exposés in the world originated from hearsay and even gossip. 

Also Read: 28,000 kg formalin-laced fish, 6000 kg of formalin-soaked shrimp seized in Kerala

Consider what former head of the department of microbiology, Goa University (GU), Joe D’Souza has to say regarding the clean chit given by the Goa FDA:

“Formalin decomposes within hours and by the time the fish was taken to the laboratory at Bambolim by the FDA, it could have decomposed to carbon dioxide and water. The very fact that formalin was found through a spot test, is a serious matter. Repeated use of formalin even in small quantities as well as its accumulated residual effects are dangerous, the former head of GU’s microbiology department told the Times of India.

Formalin can cause nephritis-inflammation of the kidneys.” When fish with formalin is transported from other states, residue may not be present on its surface by the time it reaches Goa. But the formalin has entered and penetrated the tissues and flesh of the fish, which is impossible to remove. At times formalin is sprayed inside the body of the fish or even injected into the fish.

Also Read: High levels of formalin, formaldehyde and other chemicals detected in FDA raids on Goa fish markets

Another expert from the Goa Fisheries department who didn’t want to be named said:

There is no permissible level for formalin in fish. Formalin should never be used and the only preservative that can be used to store fish is ‘food-grade or consumable ice’. This has been ratified by the FDA of different Indian states in the past. It is now surprising that the Goa FDA claims that the formalin content in the seized fish trucks was within permissible limits. I want to know what are the permissible levels that the FDA detected?

In the US and other European countries, formalin or formaldehyde is illegal in food beyond any naturally occurring microscopic trace amounts. There is nothing like a permissible level for formalin. The only permissible level for formaldehyde in fish is zero.

Another expert claims that there are different tests and methodologies to detect formalin in food substances. Under pressure from the fish mafia,  Goa government and certain Ministers with vested interests, the Goa FDA changed the testing methods that resulted in different results being obtained for the same sample of fish.

Also Read: Goa CM’s office monitoring use of formalin in fish

The Goa Citizens Action Forum (GCAF) claims that two Ministers were “worried” that the raids would result in a complete ban on fish coming in from other states and would derail the livelihood of hundreds of people dependent or associated with the trade. In reality, the GCAF alleges that the Goa government was protecting the business interests of a few big fish.

“There have been raids across the country. If one reads the news over the last one month, there have been huge seizures of formalin laced fish in North India as well as Kerala. About 28,000 kgs of formalin-contaminated fish was detected and impounded in Kerala over the last three weeks alone and about 6000 kgs of shrimp was destroyed. In Hyderabad, about 9000 kgs of formalin-laced fish was returned to its source. This formalin contamination issue is very big and is spread nationwide. The main source of contamination is Tamil Nadu where big trawlers bring in tonnes of fish which has to be sold. While all the states detected formalin and either destroyed the consignments or returned them, it is very surprising that the Goa FDA under pressure from the government immediately gave a clean chit to the fish trucks, in spite of detecting the banned chemical in initial tests,” a GCAF spokesperson told IndiaScoops.com.

Also Read: Fish Mafia King Maulana Ibrahim Funded and Actively Campaigned for Goa Forward Party During 2017 Elections?

According to IANS reports, the FDA raids were conducted at the Goa’s main wholesale market near Margao town in South Goa and in the fish market in the state capital of Panaji. Following the raids, fish market associations closed down the market places in protest for the rest of the day.

The Goa FDA, in a statement issued on Thursday, said that the raids were conducted after media reports suggested that the fish being sold at the wholesale markets was laced with formaldehyde to preserve the fish for long periods. Similar raids have been conducted at wholesale fish markets by FDA units in other states to crackdown on use of formalin to store fish.

“Team visited the wholesale fish market at Margao and collected samples of fish mainly from vehicles from other states such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The samples tested positive, showing presence of formaldehyde, reports IANS.

“Hence as an abundant precaution, the fish vendors were instructed not to distribute the stock of fish till such time the detailed laboratory reports were available,” the statement said, adding that the samples of fish were later taken to the organisation”s laboratory for analysis.

“The results obtained for all the samples are found within permissible limits. The samples are thus declared to be safe for consumption. The whole process of sampling as well as detained analysis was undertaken on top priority basis, keeping in ind the perishable nature of fish,” the FDA press statement said.

The raids however took a political turn, with Agriculture Minister Vijai Sardesai taking to Twitter to claim that the fish samples were safe for consumption even as FDA officials were still compiling their laboratory reports, claims IANS.

Goans took to social media to demand answers. How can the Minister give a clean chit to the fish consignments even before the tests are completed, does the Minister know the outcome of the tests in advance, they asked, wondering if the Minister was dictating the test results to the FDA. Why was Sardesai involved. He is not the fisheries minister, it was not in his jurisdiction, unless he has vested interests in the business, Goans ranted on social media.

On social media, Goans openly accused Sardesai of being a partner in Ibrahim’s wholesale fish business. While Sardesai has time and again flatly and vehemently denied any direct connection or business interests with Ibrahim or any other fish traders, angry Goans claim it’s an open secret and Sardesai gets a huge payoff from Ibrahim’s business, the collection which runs into several lakh per day.

“Any knee-jerk action aimed at creating panic is uncalled for. Have spoken to the CM and concerned authorities expressing this view. Thankfully, FDA has now confirmed that reports indicate fish showing no trace of formalin and hence safe,” Sardesai tweeted, even before the final FDA test results were out, claims the IANS report.

The Congress has now accused Sardesai of playing with the lives of people of Goa for whom fish is a part of a staple diet and coercing the FDA officials into releasing a manipulated test report.

“They are playing with the lives of Goans by allowing fish with formaldehyde. This fish mafia should be taken to task… The minister has virtually coerced the FDA staff to give favourable results by giving the fish mafia a clean chit, even before the test results were declared,” Congress spokesperson Urfan Mulla said, according to an IANS report.

According to a coxswain from Vizhinjam, whenever costly fish are caught, fishermen would lift its gill cover and inject formalin into it to ensure that the fish remain ‘fresh’ for weeks. The formalin spreads within the fish tissues and body and after a few hours breaks down into carbon dioxide and water, making it difficult to detect in certain tests.

This is exactly what happened in Goa on Thursday and the fish traders got away with a clean chit, but with their pockets lighter by Rs 25 lakh.

with inputs from Times of India, Herald, IANS, etc

Editor’s Note: This is a developing story. This post will be updated as inputs come in. Many people whom IndiaScoops.com spoke to are yet to revert to us with their feedback. You can send us your feedback and inputs on indiascoops AT gmail.com. We welcome suggestions and data from members of the public. We regret that we cannot individually reply to your emails or queries.