The Financial Express headlined on the front-page last Wednesday an item that says that under the guise of games-related imports, much-maligned casino and gambling materials have been brought into the country over the years. Clearly, a policy loophole has been taken advantage of. Although the cracks in the policy framework should have been sealed earlier on by energetic intervention of the appropriate authorities, it does not take anything away from the élan and vigour shown by the law enforcers in busting gambling dens and related installations in the big cities of the country. The latest drive started with a raid on several sporting clubs in the Matijheel and Fakirapool areas of the capital city, then spread to other areas, and cities. So prompt and comprehensive have been the raids that hundreds of crores of casino and gambling money have been seized and some people arrested. It has been affirmed that the current operation has the full backing of the Prime Minister in pursuance of her policy of zero tolerance to all forms of corruption. A new stimulating atmosphere has been created in the country as newspapers and television channels are coming out with various aspects of the clandestine piling up of unearned incomes and stashing them away. Apart from moral question of gambling, there is an issue with toxic wealth creation finding its way into further social criminalisation. Now, however, the National Board of Revenue is on the stepped-up alert. Customs intelligence is reportedly working overtime. Considering all these, the FE information pointing to the existence of legal loopholes may be regarded as an eye opener and an aid to course correction.
The gaps should be doubly embarrassing given that our Constitution in 1972 declared gambling and alcohol illegal. Although the constitution is the highest law of the land, and all policies must conform to the dictates of it, the reality however seems to be that customs men at various border points consult their import policy book issued by the Ministry of Commerce. While the cleanup drive is taken to its logical conclusion with the nexus unravelled and masterminds, godfathers and operatives exposed to the full force of the law, the relevant rules must be made immediately so that no casino materials are allowed in.
New laws and rules could always be made to cope with an emerging situation and should be welcome but we may follow best practice methods in terms of tourism zones for foreigners without hurting our value system. Also there is an unanswered question regarding the pitiable state of most of our sporting clubs. Donors are limited. Big clubs who thrive on them are few and far between. Their number runs into tens of thousands. Here the government must step in and save them from falling into the hands of the casino moguls. The private sector has also a big role to play. We need them, because they involve so many young people with non-violent work ethics. But before that the legal loophole must be closed and people held to account for the huge amounts of unearned incomes.