- The Sunday Roundtable
- ‘We are not the sin capital of India for God’s sake’
‘We are not the sin capital of India for God’s sake’
Casinos have been the focus of many agitations, bringing parents, children and anyone concerned about Goa on the streets. On the other hand, the Casino industry views these agitations as being biased and motivated, and believe that revenue and tourism concerns should supersede everything else. The political class has not taken any steps to see that the concerns voiced regarding casinos are addressed. When in power, the Congress was the first to parent casinos in Goa, and though the BJP paid lip service and protested when they were out of power, they backtracked on their promise when they came to power. Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar has even said that casinos should not be moved out of the Mandovi. While some see that as an excellent stand taken by the chief minister in favour of commerce, industry and tourism, there is also a strong anti-view that Goa should not become the sin capital of India. Though the Congress and BJP initially agreed to participate in the discussion, they later backed out of this discussion without assigning any reasons. Joe Gomes, Member AAP, Sabina Martins, convenor of Bailancho Saad and Aanand Madgavkar, member Aam Aadmi and Aurat Against Gambling participated in the discussion which was moderated by Sujay Gupta
Herald: Is there really a need to shift the casinos out of the Mandovi? The National Green Tribunal has adjudicated that they do not pollute the water, they move out the garbage to the shore by putting it onto barges, they have helped CCP to augment facilities and clear out the garbage. So why do they need to move out?
Joe Gomes: Some time back flow metres were fitted onto the casinos, to monitor how much sewage has been taken out from the ships. I don’t know if this has been completely implemented or not.
Yes the organic waste is being picked up from there and dumped somewhere, where (it is dumped) is a big question mark. Let’s look at why the casinos should be out of the Mandovi?
If you go there in the evening, you will find a number of vehicles parked on the St Tome streets, creating a huge traffic congestion. St Tome residents complain that the (casino) staff who park bikes there urinate near their compounds. There are beer bottles found near their houses. In fact we were involved in a cleaning campaign there, and we picked up a number of beer bottles. Who’s consuming them? It’s just not the river. There is more pollution being caused in the river, but there is also pollution caused on the land.
Sabina Martins: There are several reasons why they (casinos) shouldn’t be occupying the Mandovi. Rivers are public resources, and these casinos are parked there permanently. Rivers are meant for navigation.
They (casino vessels) have closed doors and AC rooms, I don’t know why they should be parked in the river in the first place.
Secondly, as far as pollution is concerned, at the time when we were monitoring the situation, we checked this out. The casinos first said there is a sewage truck which comes to take the sewage. We checked but there was no sewage truck. When the matter goes to any authority like the Green Tribunal, they put up whatever is required to get their licences. Third problem is the parking which has already been mentioned.
Then what about the local businesses? You see casinos elsewhere, they are always located away from people. Far away, because they create an addiction among locals. Because of the proximity, people frequent (them) more often, and they get addicted. They should be located far away, here we have taken the casinos and put them right in the centre, of the capital city.
Aanand Madganvkar: In 1992 there were no casinos in Goa. Did we not manage without casinos? We managed very well without casinos. There was an act which said – no gambling of any sort in Goa. From there they (politicians) changed the law slightly to say that starred hotels can have gaming machines. We are not talking about live gambling. Then they changed the law (again) in 1996 to say they will allow offshore casinos. ‘Offshore’ necessarily means ‘outside territorial waters’. All cruise ships which come into Goa shut off their gambling (activities) when they enter Goan waters because it’s not allowed in the territorial waters. It happens all over the world. They said these would be offshore vessels and gave these vessels licences.
There was one vessel there. I remember the then chief minister Manohar Parrikar threatening that not one more casino would be allowed. They have allowed five or six more. Now they are anchored in the river.
They are not supposed to anchor in the river. Not only that now he has got them registered under the Inland Vessels Act. Are we joking? Inland Vessels Act is only for vessels within the rivers.
They can’t go past the Mandovi bridge. So they are all parked over here. And now if they are registered under the Inland Vessels Act, they can’t even go to sea. So has he (Manohar Parrikar) made it in such a way that they can’t go out to sea, so that they are parked exactly where they are now? They are getting two more vessels. And we don’t need this. We have to get back to our Gambling Act of 1976 which was there till 1992 and stop all gambling. We are not the sin capital of India for God’s sake. We’re becoming another Las Vegas.
Herald: Why do you feel that casinos bring in vice and sin? Casino people say that this is absolutely kind of healthy, legal, commercial activity, in the sense that, where is the evidence that there is a single case of prostitution or anything else that is illegal?
JG: There is a saying that wine, women and song go together.
Herald: There may be a saying, but where is the evidence?
JG: I know for a fact that there are pimps who are soliciting in the casino. How do I know it? I’ve been there, I’ve been to a casino. You know it’s curiosity… I want to know what is going on in the casino, we need to go there, study it, see it and then talk. I’m talking with full authority, knowing that I have been to casinos, I can name the casinos… there are men who come up to you when you are there.
They check you out, they see who you are, what you are, how much you are gambling… and they come up to you and they ask you if you want a woman.
That is one modus operandi that is taking place. But the other modus operandi that is happening is… you go to the airport on a Friday, you’ll find businessmen coming and you have a whole lot of women coming in and our taxi drivers recognize them. I was there and they said, “Ailem reh baba portem” (she has returned)… and she’s come this time with somebody else. What is happening is these businessmen come, they don’t have to carry anything… they don’t have to carry cash loads from Delhi.
It’s all a hawala racket. You pay there, you collect here. Escorts are sent with them, rooms are provided.
This is a business of the powerful, and let me tell you the casino business is a syndicate. And it is getting stronger and stronger and it’s going to finish Goa. They’ve got women… I know of someone who lives just above my building and I believe he’s already running a syndicate of this type. I’ve already reported it to the cops. Cops are investigating the matter, because girls are being brought and they only seem to be operating at night.