Rich but not willing to be famous: Overnight crorepatis refuse to be face of Punjab’s lottery story

Nazir is the only one among eight of last year’s bumper prize winners to have agreed to be part of advertisements Punjab government wants to come out with.

punjab Updated: Mar 04, 2018 09:57 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Overnight crorepatis,Punjab,Punjab lottery
Nazir Khan

In his 50s, Nazir Khan from Mansa in Punjab sings in marriages and political functions to make a living. Now he has many asking him for money to marry their daughters!

In November last year, Nazir was declared one of the two winners of Punjab government’s Diwali Bumper lottery prize of Rs 1.5 crore. Thanks to Punjab’s financial crunch, Nazir has yet to receive the money, which after a tax cut of 30%, will still make him a crorepati. But the riches have come at a price. “I have still to get the money but so many people now approach me for charity to marry their daughters or for medical treatment. I have always helped people but the lottery has made life difficult,” he says.

He is even reluctant to share his picture. “Photo rehne hi dijiye, phir charcha mein aa jayenge (Don’t publish my picture. I will again become a talking point),” he says, before agreeing woefully.

Not only have last year’s prizes not gone to the winners, those who become rich overnight refuse to be famous.

Yet Nazir is the only one among eight of the last year’s bumper prize winners to have agreed to be part of advertisements the state government wants to come out with to add a face to its lottery story, as keeping the identity of winners private is not good economics.

The sales for its Baisakhi bumper whose winners will be declared in April have been hit following negative publicity in media that one of the two winners of the New Year bumper was “not genuine”.

“He brought the ticket from a post office, which disclosed to a newspaper that he had not contacted them for the prize. A family dispute has now erupted over the money and he has given a written request to us not to disclose his identity,” said a department official, who did not wish to be named. The remaining six winners too have cited charity seekers, calls from realty firms, ransom calls or family disputes to keep their identity private.

The department has a strong case to make for why winners’ identities should be revealed. It ensures transparency by confirming that the winners are actual people and picked at random. It makes more people buy tickets, they say. Most of the regular buyers are from low income groups and so are the winners. Lottery sales go down whenever migrant labour heads back to their villages in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar during the harvest or marriage season. The mayhem after the sentencing of Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim in August last year had hit sales of the Diwali bumper.

Business in numbers

The Punjab government has four bumpers in a year —New Year, Baisaiki, Rakhi and Diwali. Each has two prizes of Rs 1.5 crore each and a second prize of Rs 10 lakh. The lucky numbers are selected through rotating number plates in a machine before the public in the presence of two IAS or PCS officers.

And the two bumper prizes of Rs 1.5 crore are guaranteed to the public as the machine is rotated again if the ticket number is from the unsold lot. Prized at Rs 200 each, for each bumper 20 lakh tickets are printed.

The three agents engaged by the department distribute these to their vendors. Each agent pays upfront for 1.5 lakh tickets to ensure the Rs 3-crore prize money (two winners of Rs 1.5 crore) is recovered. Sales have been as good as 12 lakh tickets a bumper too. But now sales are looking grim.

Not only have last year’s prizes not gone to the winners, those who become rich overnight refuse to be famous.

First Published: Mar 04, 2018 09:37 IST