The state witnessed one of the biggest raids on matka gambling activities over the weekend. The district investigation unit of the North Goa police headed by Superintendent of Police Chandan Chowdhary seized over Rs 59 lakh and arrested 11 persons from Morjim village in Pernem taluka in the raid, which appeared to have been kept a well-guarded secret till the end.
The huge seizure of cash, mobile phones and other items indicates that matka is thriving in the state. That the daily turnover at the gambling den was big can be seen from the fact that the operators had a note counting machine. Unlike in the past, the raid was not prompted by any court direction but appears to be a sincere effort of SP Chowdhary
It is very rare that a big matka operator is targeted in the state. The police action must have sent shivers down the spine of matka operators who were quick to float rumours of SP Chandan Chowdhary being transferred. The Chief Minister and the DGP must back her to the full. In the past only small bookies were arrested, with the seizure of amount ranging from a few hundreds to thousands of rupees. Though it is believed that the main operator had many others on his roll the police could lay hand only on a few.
Now that a big fish has been netted the police should act promptly to lay their hands on the others and take steps to end matka menace. The raid is in sharp contrast to 86 other raids conducted by the police since January this year in which a little over Rs 54,000 was seized. The government has been time and again making statements to rid the state of matka gambling but has failed to take any concrete steps in that direction owing to involvement of politicians from different parties in the illegal business. The police do not have a free hand to act against big matka operators. The public perception is that local police officials to protect matka operators for the protection money they get.
It is not that the senior police officials are not aware of the flourishing business of matka gambling, but they hesitate in going after the big sharks for fear of inviting the anger of political patrons. As far as the public perception goes, raids on small matka bookies are “fixed” and those arrested are released on bail soon after their arrests as it is a bailable offence. It is not only matka that is thriving in the state.
Many other gambling activities are routinely organised all over the state during the village festivals, football matches and other occasions. That gambling thrives in villages and even events at the local levels are organised to facilitate such illegal activities in connivance with the powers that be is known to police who seldom act against the organisers. Such activities are generally known to be blessed by local politicians, who restrain police from acting by parking themselves in police stations or sending them on a wild goose hunt. Some in the police force are also known to patronize such gambling activities for their own motives.
Now that a big matka operator has been caught by the police in what appears to be a bold action, it remains to be seen whether the police will take the case to a logical conclusion or those arrested would escape conviction as have most matka operators in the past. The police efforts against matka gambling appear to have been jolted as those arrested have been released on bail by a court.
Only time will tell whether the police would make sustained efforts to end the menace of gambling or their efforts would be thwarted by politicians in power. SP Chowdhary and other senior police officials aiming to curb the illegal business must take into account the fact that the business runs because a large number of ordinary people place bets in the hope of becoming rich, as is the dream in all types of gambling.
Though there is no ‘transparency’ in the business, they trust the results. The business also provides employment to a number of Goans and keeps their hearths warm. These facts are mentioned here not to arouse pity in the hearts of top police officials for the small people who make their livelihood selling matka numbers. They are mentioned to remind them that information about the big operators in the illegal matka business might be walled by a large number of small actors and they have to scale over those walls to get information to combat the scourge.