There will be little to cheer for gamblers rolling dice in the high stake game of 'jhandi munda' this Diwali in Arunachal Pradesh, which was legal till last year, but banned this time around.
During the festival of lights the game is played with numbered dice at betting kiosks which are choc-a-bloc with people waiting to try their luck. There are six icons on the six sides of the dice with the icon turning up the most being the winning one.
Arunachal Pradesh is perhaps the only Indian state where gambling has been legal under the Public Gambling Act, enacted in 1867.
But this Diwali, the state government, has banned issue of licences for setting up betting kiosks. Permits valid for only three days during Diwali to host a betting kiosk cost around Rs 12,000. Last year around 5000 licenses were issued in the capital city alone and the number perhaps crossed 15,000 in the entire state. "We have completely banned jhandi munda this time as it causes economic hardships and squandering of money resulting in starvation for many poor families," capital complex magistrate Sanjoy Goel said.
Goel said that the betting kiosks could also lead to breach of peace. He said that the city SP has been directed to have 24 hour patrols against gambling. Earlier, the revenue collected from jhandi munda operators was deposited with the state exchequer. "You lose money and still believe you can get back the lost amount. At times even mortgaging property or cars to get liquid cash for gambling," an IAS officer, Y Tsering, said.
Local people said thousands of rupees were spent on gambling during the three days with many returning home with empty wallets. "There is every chance of people becoming paupers in no time, as jhandi munda is a sort of addiction," said Tamar Boje, a young man here.
There was also a campaign in the past by several lawmakers who wanted the government to stop issuing licenses to gambling operators.
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