Players always win the first games. After a while, they become so addicted to gain that they begin to borrow from others, neglect the risks involved, and when they find themselves in debt up to their necks, they make the difficult decision to commit suicide.
India will soon celebrate its 75th Independence Day. Over the past 75 years, the country has made great strides in different sectors and established itself globally as a power to be reckoned with. In this, the youth of the country played a major role. By excelling in their chosen fields, they have placed India on the world map and in the coming years, the demographic dividend that India is currently enjoying is expected to accelerate the growth rate and see young people conquer new frontiers.
Yet there is one problem that threatens to undo many of the nation’s achievements. It is linked to the recent wave of suicides across the country which are mostly attributed to online gambling. It was the British government that first encouraged gambling in India in order to profit from tax revenue. Now, with the current turn of events, it looks like they left a lasting legacy.
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The headlines that appear in the newspapers almost every other day are alike. A man or woman usually between the ages of 20 and 35 dies by suicide after losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in online games of chance like rummy. Most victims are educated with decent jobs and stable family backgrounds. A 20-year-old boy from Kerala has committed suicide after losing Rs 5 lakh in online rummy. A 36-year-old father from Tamil Nadu who was a bank clerk murdered his two children and killed his wife due to mounting debts. A 29-year-old woman in Chennai has committed suicide after losing all her gold and life savings in online rummy.
Tamil Nadu alone has recorded nearly 20 deaths over the past three years. Yet few eyebrows have been raised despite young talent falling into a death trap that has been eerily similar for all who fall prey to it.
What perpetuated this problem were the long periods of confinement that confined people to their homes and many turned to the virtual world to escape boredom. Rummy and online poker were not only games that kept them engaged, but also helped those who had lost their livelihoods find a source of income. With the penetration of the Internet in rural areas, online games have become even more popular. According to a KPMG report, India’s online gaming sector is one of the fastest growing sectors, eclipsing most other forms of media in terms of investment, revenue and employment.
Despite the positives, the patterns remain the same for anyone who finds themselves trapped in the online gambling network. They always win the first games, which makes them want to put in more money. After a while they become so addicted to the habit of winning that they start borrowing from others, neglect the risks involved and in the end, when they find themselves in debt up to their necks, they take the difficult decision to commit suicide.
If this problem remains hidden, it is because it is not easy for anyone to assess what is happening in the virtual world. In some cases, money set aside by parents for the children’s education or the home of their dreams was debited. It wasn’t until the parents went to the police that they realized the culprit was their own son or daughter.
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Hari Kumar, a psychologist, said: “The magnitude of what happens when things go wrong in online gambling is hard to fathom because many don’t realize it’s an addiction and you have to ask for help. There’s also the shame and stigma attached to being unable to repay debts.”
The online gambling industry has become so powerful in the country that it is becoming almost impossible to put checks and balances on them. States like Tamil Nadu, Assam, Telangana, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh have banned online gambling. The Karnataka High Court has observed that the online gambling industry needs effective regulation. But many of those decisions are overturned.
Now the Telangana government is of the view that blanket bans may not be the solution. The High Courts of Punjab and Haryana, Rajasthan and Mumbai have already recognized fantasy sports as games of skill and a legitimate commercial activity protected by Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of the United States. ‘India. The Madras High Court has struck down the online gambling ban imposed by the Tamil Nadu government, saying it is disproportionate to its purpose.
It should be noted that although the Gambling Act of 1960 prohibited betting and gambling, the Supreme Court has ruled that games that require skill and intelligence will not fall within its limits. Since rummy is a game considered to require skill and intelligence, companies are taking advantage of this loophole to circumvent the law.
There is no doubt that some court judgments have contributed to the deep penetration of the online gambling industry into the Indian society. But if India is to ensure its future by protecting its youth, it is a good omen to consider the recommendations of the Justice K. Chandru Committee, which was set up by Tamil Nadu to study the impact of online games.
The Committee recommended in its report a ban on all online card games. It focused on how gambling addiction could impact human life and in turn become a major threat at individual, family and societal levels.
Compounding an already tense situation, a report by Statista estimates that the online rummy market in India will reach $1.4 billion by 2024 due to growing smartphone penetration and greater internet accessibility. .
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Researchers from the National Center for Social Research (NatCen) and the University of Liverpool found in a study that gambling businesses in Britain derive 40% of their revenue from just one percent of players and that those affected were primarily the vulnerable in society – the young, the elderly, and the economically disadvantaged. This also applies to India.
The situation is getting grim and the government must act quickly. Affordability controls and legislations should be put in place to regulate online gambling. For a country that has always been proud of its youth and its achievements, the stakes are high. Every life lost is an irreplaceable loss to the nation. It can only be stopped when government and civil society come together to take the bull by the horns. A lasting solution must be found to give young people the future they truly deserve.
Lekshmi Parameswaran is a researcher and writer based in New Delhi. His Twitter profile is @lekshmip.
The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of OneIndia and OneIndia assumes no responsibility or liability for them.
Article first published: Saturday, August 13, 2022, 4:30 p.m. [IST]