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Where govt. issues licenses to gambling operators

The mountainous northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh is perhaps the only Indian state where gambling is legal.

india Updated: Nov 02, 2005 16:34 IST

Come Diwali and the hills of Arunachal Pradesh come alive with cheers from gamblers rather than the thundering sound of firecrackers.

The mountainous northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh is perhaps the only Indian state where gambling is legal with the government issuing licenses to locals to set up betting kiosks in public places. Sounds bizarre, but then it's true.

Hundreds of tribal people throng makeshift stalls set up by the roadside with locals participating in the traditional gambling game known as Jhandi Munda. The game is played with numbered dices and the stakes are very high indeed - your principal amount could double if you call the right shots.

Jhandi Munda operators were given a permit for three days from the district authorities with the revenue collected from the gambling license fees going to the government exchequer.

"This has been a practice since ages and we are still continuing with the tradition of allowing operators to set up Jhandi Munda stalls during Diwali and also in some places on every Sunday and local holidays," a government spokesperson said.

Locals say people come with thousands of rupees for gambling during the three days with many of them returning home with their wallets empty.

"There is every chance of people becoming paupers in no time as Jhandi Munda is some sort of an addiction," said T Loya, a local youth in Itanagar. The craze among local tribal people is so intense that there have been instances of some selling land and vehicles to generate money for gambling.

"You lose money and still believe you can get back the lost amount and so continue to arrange cash from various sources, at times even mortgaging properties or cars to get liquid cash for gambling," T.G. Rinpoche, legislator and former Arunachal Pradesh tourism minister, told IANS.

There is a campaign now by several lawmakers like Rinpoche who want the government to stop issuing licenses to gambling operators except during festivals.

"You cannot stop Jhandi Munda totally as this has become some sort of a ritual but we are against allowing such gambling during Sundays or even on weekdays as is the practice in some places."

First Published: Nov 02, 2005 16:34 IST