The Indian resort state of Goa is cracking down on revellers throwing illegal, drug-fuelled parties as coronavirus cases climb in the tourist hotspot, a government minister said Tuesday.
The coastal region has long been a magnet for backpackers and other travellers drawn to its scenic beaches and easygoing vibe, but the pandemic has meant that large get-togethers are now banned.
Lots of bars and restaurants are also unable to operate after many workers fled the state for their home villages when India imposed a strict lockdown in late March.
The partying has not stopped, however -- including in private villas, stone quarries and at secret locations in the jungle involving thousands of dollars' worth of drugs, according to local media.
Goa's Tourism Minister Manohar Azgaonkar warned revellers on Tuesday that the good times are over.
"These parties are happening illegally... police are looking into it", he told AFP.
"We are asking people to be vigilant and if they come to know about any such case, they should inform the police," he added.
"There are guest houses and villas that are operating illegally," he said, accusing owners of renting out their homes to visitors without informing the authorities.
In a recent case, police busted an underground rave at a private villa on Saturday, seizing drugs worth 900,000 rupees ($12,000) and arresting 23 people, including foreign nationals, according to a report in the Hindustan Times newspaper.
"All aspects of the party are being investigated. Where did the drugs come from? How did they arrange the party, who arranged it," said Shobhit Saxena, police narcotics superintendent.
The police has "zero tolerance for such cases and gives priority to public health and safety especially in these times", he told AFP.
Foreign tourists cannot travel to India but Goa is home to a substantial number of foreign residents including many Russians, Israelis and Britons.
Earlier this month an all-night rave fuelled by alcohol and drugs descended into a brawl with knives and bottles, while last month a Russian hotel owner was reportedly arrested for throwing a large party.
Goa, home to around 1.8 million people, has registered nearly 12,000 coronavirus cases so far, with the vast majority of infections recorded over the past month.