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Are you going to arrest the whole country for betting?

Last updated on: May 25, 2013 13:26 IST

The country is convulsed with cases of rape. Drug smugglers are roaming free. Murderers, terrorists and politicians are involved in every possible crime. Shouldn’t the cops first deal with these terrible criminals, who are a menace to society, asks A Ganesh Nadar.

Remember the time you were a kid? If someone challenged your statement, you’d immediately challenge them back, “Bet? Kitne ki (How much)?”

The penalty would range from a few paise to a sweet to a favourite toy to doing each other’s homework.

Yet, despite the fact that the Indian penal system is based on the British one, gambling is legal in the UK and illegal in India.

Here are a few more things for you to think about:

Toddy is sold by the state government in Kerala but banned in neighbouring Tamil Nadu.

Gutka is banned in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra but is legal in Karnataka where it is manufactured. It is also manufactured in Andhra Pradesh, where most of India’s millionaire tobacco farmers live.

You can play the online lottery… just not for the last number. Gambling on the last two digits, however, is allowed! Weird, isn’t it? It’s illegal to bet on one number but legal to bet on two.

What is wrong in gambling when you do it with your own money? You are not cheating anyone. You are not robbing anyone. You are not threatening anyone.

Do you know that many of the vegetable sellers who trade on the footpath double up as bookies? They accept bets up to Rs 10,000 when the cricket season is on. For the rest of the year, they stick to their original trade.

Do you know offices have ‘unofficial’ bookies who accept bets and pay the winners?

Do you know that every matka joint has a bookie?

Do you know every pimp in every red light area knows a bookie who takes his bet?

Everyone in this country is involved in betting, in some form or the other.

A pauper knows he will never earn a lakh in his life. That is why he bets. For that elusive chance that he might, overnight, become a millionaire.

It is this hope that makes the poor gamble. The rich gamble for fun.

Both break the law, but do they need to be treated as criminals? Don’t arrest them. Don’t lock them up. If you must, take them to a civil court and fine them.

I asked a film director friend of mine if Bollywood gambles. His reply? “Everyone does… some for as little as Rs 5 and some a few thousands. The richer ones might gamble in lakhs.”

Film stars are paid in crores so what is wrong if they want to risk a few millions? I agree it’s against the law, but it’s not criminal. A gambler is not a threat to society or to the country.

When the government followed the 200 per cent tax regime in the '80s, smuggling was rampant in India. Now that import taxes are reasonable, that activity is no longer as lucrative.

As long as we have archaic laws, gambling will be illegal. If we make it legal, the government earn get its taxes which it currently doesn't. Gamblers will bet with white money, making the transactions accountable.

This will give the government more money to play with. Who knows, they may then have more 2G spectrum scams, helicopter scams, coffin scams and every other scam they can come up with.

I called Heavan and spoke to Dara Singh, “Dara Singhji, aapka beta jail mein hai. Woh betting kar raha tha (Your son is in jail for betting)!”

Dara Singh replied angrily, “Mahabharat mein bhi Dharmaputra Yudhistir gambling karte the. Kya unhe jail bheja gaya? Yeh anyay hai. Gambling hamare sanskar mein hai. Jo hamare Mahabharat mein hai, woh boora kaise ho sakta hai? Vindoo ko chhodo aur kuch aur kaam karo (Was Dharmaputra Yudhistir sent to jail for gambling in the Mahabharat? Jailing Vindoo is wrong. Gambling is part of our heritage; how can it be wrong? Release Vindoo and find something else to do.)”

Dara Singh has a point.

The country is convulsed with cases of rape. Drug smugglers are roaming free. Murderers, terrorists and politicians are involved in every possible crime. Shouldn’t the cops first deal with these terrible criminals, who are a menace to society?

Corruption is destroying the roots of our country. Let the cops first arrest those who are grabbing national assets for personal gain. Who are claiming forest land and selling them. Who are selling rice meant for ration shops.

Leave those gamblers, who are betting with their own money, alone and arrest these criminals first.

Don’t get confused. I am batting for gamblers, not for fixers.

Fixers are frauds. They are cheating the spectator and the genuine gambler. They are cheating the IPL owners who have paid astronomical sums to buy players for their teams.

Arrest the fixers; let the gamblers go!

PS: Vindoo, a piece of advice -- stick to gambling next time; keep away from the fixers.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

A Ganesh Nadar