One has to admire Justice RM Lodha. The gentleman has vision and a progressive mindset.
Unfortunately, he is in India.
The Lodha committee recommendations suggest that betting be legalised in India. We are referring, of course, to cricket-related betting, an 'industry' that generates crores of rupees.
It's quite an idea actually. If you have the right checks and balances in place, there is no reason that the betting business cannot become an income generator for both the Board of Control for Cricket in India, as well as the government.
It's not rocket science. There are countries where sports betting is a full-fledged industry. In England, you can bet on cricket, football, Formula One - in short, any sport.
But then, we are not in England, are we?
We are in India, where culture, variety, languages and colours are also tempered with bigotry at every level.
"Betting? Gambling?" You can almost see the self-appointed guardians of our moral fibre throw up their hands in horror. "We are Indians! We do not indulge in gambling and such wrong things."
Really? I thought gambling in many forms has been a tradition in India since the time of the Mahabharat. Every Diwali sees large parts of North India immersed in card play, with the betting boots ranging from 50 paise to lakhs.
India is a nation where you cannot buy a five-rupee lottery ticket, but you can bet on any horse you want.
Why is horse-racing exempt? Because it is a passion of the rich, famous and influential.
There is a school of thought that says gambling has destroyed many households, as the meagre income has been siphoned off to buy lottery tickets and lotto numbers.
But nothing stops this same guy from putting money on a horse.
Yes, gambling does affect the poorer families. So put in the relevant checks and balances!
We use a Permanent Account Number (PAN) for just about everything nowadays, from buying property to jewellery to a car. It is used if you travel abroad, if you invest in any kind of financial medium. Even to inform the Government about taxes that you have already paid!
So use PAN in legalised betting. Make sure there is a limit in terms of amount that can be bet by a certain PAN number. Make all transactions online with relevant TDS formats.
That would make sure that those who can't afford to bet would not be betting. But no! We are a righteous and moral people who do not do such bad things.
The irony is amazing in everything you see in India.
We worship women as goddesses but violate them with impunity. Female foeticide is rampant. Women are teased and groped as a pastime, and crimes against them, ranging from sexual to physical, are daily affairs.
We are also a morally pure population who will not even say 'sex' in public. We are a purified lot who do not watch pornography. If we do, the government makes sure that we do not.
So tell me, has pornography evaporated from India? No one is watching and we are morally cleansed?
As for sex, do tell where one billion and loose change of us came from? By offering prasad to the local deity?
Sexual deniability and frustration is one of the biggest reasons for the growing number of criminals among juveniles and the youth.
But that's all right. We can be criminals, but at least we will be cleansed. So much so that sex education too is a taboo issue.
The government educates you not to be biased on caste, and then offers every possible relaxation on the basis of caste. Even in today's day and time, when caste-based reservation is passe, it is still a vital election handle.
Leaders ask us not to segregate on basis of community and religion, and then use these to the hilt.
Nations have legalised sports betting. Some have even legalised prostitution! (Can you see the moral horror?) It provides revenue to the country in question, and safe and regulated conditions for those involved in the trade as well as the customers.
We don't. We are nice people who do not visit prostitutes. Just like we don't gamble or jump traffic lights or cheat taxes.
India is one country where recreational drugs are illegal and legal at the same time. There are states which actually have government-approved outlets for recreational drugs, while there are also states where there is a blanket ban.
The funny part is that recreational drugs are available equally in both states. Only that those that have legalised it are making some money.
The list is endless. You can marry a white woman, but woe betide you if you even shake hands with a black woman. Even inside the country, you are better off if you are fair, though we don't discriminate.
Justice Lodha is a man with vision. But as a visionary, he would also know that legalised betting in cricket, or any other sport, won't happen any time soon.
We are, after all, nice, moral people. We don't gamble.
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