Police must act as professionals

The actions of the police in some of the cases has not been above board. It is imperative they act professionally and speedily to handle any crime that is reported, rather than try to fob off complainants, as they sometimes tend to do. Professionalism is lacking in the force. If the police are seen as acting seriously in tackling a crime, then the correct message goes through to would-be criminals and law-breakers. That has obviously not been the case, or things would not have come to this pass.

To some extent the way certain cases have been handled by some dubious police officers has resulted in Goa's image taking a beating. However, the long arm of the law has eventually caught up with such officers and the accused. Still, it needs to be said that of all the places in India, none is safer for women than Goa. The media tends to focus on the few cases where things go wrong.

In fact, tourists should also be more responsible and not go to public places skimpily dressed or shirtless. The 2009 annual British Behaviour Abroad report released by the British Foreign Office said that Britons are increasingly getting into trouble abroad, especially in alcohol and drug related cases. This does not absolve Goa of its abysmal level of policing and crime detection, but it helps put things in perspective.

In view of the bad reputation that Goa has been acquiring and the bad name its police force has been getting, police have to be doubly careful so that no one accuses them of protecting the accused, and an impression is not created that in Goa the victims get harassed.

That said, the police force and officials work under a lot of constraints in India -- understaffed, overworked, sent for long hours on bandobast duty, ill-equipped and without the kind of resources that you would find in more advanced countries where most of Goa's visitors come from.

If the Western yardstick is used, our police will be found lacking in crime detection, handling of complaints, and methodology used. Forensic or chemical analysis reports take long here because of fewer approved laboratories. A victim who has already undergone immense trauma is likely to consider the delays a negative experience and is apt to see herself as an object of harassment or victimisation. Police personnel have to be more attuned to this. Sensitivity levels have to be vastly improved for victims of crime, Indians and foreigners.

Lyndon Monteiro is vice-chairman of Goa Tourism Development Corporation