Panaji: It may be a while before Goa`s much-touted tourist security force (TSF) literally hits top gear as the patrol jeeps assigned to it do not have four-wheel drive, essential for cruising on the uneven and soft beach sand.
Tourism department officials said 15 patrol jeeps donated by a global tourism organisation for the creation of the TSF have come a cropper vis-a-vis beach patrolling.
"The donated Tata Sumo jeeps do not have four-wheel drive. So, they cannot be used on beaches. Some days back, one of the jeeps got stuck in the sand and had to be pulled out," Tourism Director Swapnil Naik told reporters.
Four-wheel drive mechanism allows all four wheels of a vehicle to receive torque from the engine simultaneously.
"The TSF might use the jeeps for patrolling near other areas of tourist interest like temples and churches, but we cannot use them on beaches," Naik said.
The state government`s sluggish and late response has not been taken kindly by the tourism organisation that donated the 15 jeeps and seven motorcycles in May this year to curb the rising crime against foreigners.
"The vehicles were given to the government May 15. I do not know if they were not suitable. They (Goa government) should have mentioned this during the time of handing over," Travel and Tourism Association of Goa spokesperson Ralph de Souza said.
De Souza added that the vehicles were donated by the World Tourism Council of India, of which the association is a member.
"The industry has participated in this exercise in good faith. If the vehicles are not suitable, we can meet and see how best the situation can be addressed. The foremost thing is the security of our guests and Goa`s coast, and the state`s image," he said.
The several hundred personnel strong TSF will comprise ex-servicemen specially roped in to patrol the beaches and other places of tourist interest in Goa.
It was raised on the directions of the union tourism ministry after several high-profile crimes against foreign tourists, especially women, in the state.