CHALLENGED: Babush challenged the Big Daddy of casinos owned by alleged sexual molester Gopal Kanda of Haryana by removing the encroachments on the footpath near the Adil Shah Palace
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
Babush Monserrate has demonstrated that he is willing to deliver on his promises. Consistent with his promise of removing the casinos from the Mandovi river, he, along with the Mayor of Panjim, Uday Madkaikar, had the guts to remove the footpath encroachments of Big Daddy . The complicity of the BJP with the casino owners is dramatised with the fact that cases have been filed against Babush and Madkaikar
Full marks to Pratima Coutinho, president of the Mahila Congress, who joined the battle against Big Daddy. Just in case you missed our last issue, Big Daddy is owned by Gopal Kumar Kanda, charged with multiple rape and unnatural offenses and abetment to suicide of one of his employees, Geetika Sharma.
Big Daddy is the latest offshore casino to pollute the River Mandovi. It also seems to be the most brazen. Unlike other casino groups like Deltin, owned by Jaidev Modi, and the Pride Group, managed by Shrinivas Naik, Big Daddy was permitted to berth in the Mandovi river despite Parrikar’s repeated assurances that no more casinos would be permitted to berth in the River Mandovi during his election campaign. For some time Gopal Kanda was using the Zee Tv group Shubhash Chandra’s Maharaja — which did not get a license perhaps because they did not bribe the government. Big Daddy is the new avatar of the Maharaja and like a maharaja thinks it wants not only the Mandovi river but also all the footpaths in Panjim city. The reception area of Big Daddy has totally taken up the footpath close to the Adil Shah Palace which used to house the Secretariat.
Kanda’s foray into casinos here goes back to 2009 when he bought the Leela group’s Casino Rio for a reported amount of `30 crore. Leela had applied for and received an offshore gaming licence in 2006 but protests by local fishermen forced them to move out from the river Sal to the river Mandovi which led them to giving up the idea. Kanda also was unsuccessful at making it a going concern.
Our belief that Babush is the only MLA with the guts to confront big daddies like the casinos has been justified. Babush, along with Uday Madkaikar, the mayor of Panjim, started demolishing the encroachments on the footpath. They were confronted by two allegedly non-Goan women who, taking advantage of the fact that Babush faces a charge of molestation, filed a complaint that he and the mayor had tried to molest them. They were clearly either employees or agents of Big Daddy casinos. Video tapes which are in circulation show verbal fights but no physical contact between the Panjim MLA and the ladies defending Big Daddy.
Not surprisingly the Goa police under the instruction of Satish Dhond, the remote control of Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, filed charges against the Panjim MLA and the Mayor for having the guts to challenge the casino. When Chief Minister Pramod was asked about the encroachment and the abuses by the women he had no answer. Nor would he give an assurance that the Casinos will be moved from the Mandovi in the near future.
CASINOS ENTER GOA
The first casino license in Goa was issued two decades ago to Sundra Advani of Ramada hotel and was called the Caravela. He was allegedly close to then Union Home Minister LK Advani. For almost a decade until the BJP came to power no casinos licenses were issued and Caravela enjoyed a monopoly. Then Jaidev Modi through his contacts in the BJP got a license to set up not just one but three casinos offshore — Deltin Royale, Deltin Jaqk and Deltin Caravela, as well as the onshore Deltin Suites Casino Hotel at Nerul.
A third player came in the market, the Ashok Khetrapal fronted group, under the name of Casino Pride, which was allowed to berth within ten metres of the Panjim show of the Mandovi river. The entrance to Casino Pride is through the property of the office of the Captain of Ports. Besides they also have an onshore casino at the Majestic hotel at Porvorim which they have taken over.
In 2014, the BJP also reversed the law it had brought in to ban the transfer of casino licences when it allowed the Pride group to take over the V M Salgaocar & Bro Pvt Ltd owned Casino Carnival which was renamed ‘Casino Pride 2’. The government collected a fee of
5 crore for the transfer, and the deal went through for an unconfirmed amount of80 crore.
Casino Pride is also building an eight-storey hotel in violation of norms on a narrow lane in the Bay View area in Dona Paula. This is to save the expenditure incurred by all casinos on providing accommodation to ‘high rollers’ — those who gamble
1 lakhs or more. These gamblers who are willing to risk losing1 lakh deposit the money in the casino account and get free accommodation in 5-star hotels. So in a sense, 5-star hotels in Panjim and in the case of Deltin, Verem also have a stake in the casinos remaining in the Mandovi river.
Contrary to the claims of the two women of dubious origin allegedly backed by the BJP that casinos employee are mainly Goans, the majority are from the Northeast or from Nepal. It may be recalled that during the by-election Rohan Khaunte complained that Srinivas Nayak of Casino Pride had registered 800 Nepali employees as voters in the Porvorim Assembly constituency. This was absurd as Nepal is not a part of India and citizens of Nepal cannot vote in the country. Nepalis are chosen because it is the biggest casino centre from which local casinos can get experienced employees.
When the gambling law was specially amended to permit offshore casinos in Goa the casinos were required to berth twenty nautical miles from the shore and not in the Mandovi river. The very expression offshore means it should be off the sea shore and cannot be parked in any river and that to in the part of the river which is so close to the shore of capital city Panjim.
Casinos have to go because they are a hazard to the river navigation ferries which ferry passengers from Panjim to Betim and elsewhere. They are also a threat to a half-a-dozen cruise boats which are parked at the cruise jetty. If mining resumes there is risk of a clash between then and barges.
The other charge against the casinos is that they discharge their sewage and waste into the Mandovi river. Considering every casino accommodates more than a thousand people and there are six casinos one can imagine the waste they generate.
Those defending casinos against the argument that it vitiates the fabrc of Goan society by getting youth addicted to gambling argue that Goans do not go to offshore casinos. This is not true. Many Goans are regulars. Almost every Goan politician and several bureaucrats go to the casinos with huge amounts of cash in paper bags. I have personally seen a former Tourism Director N Suryanarayana in the casino with plastic bags full of money.
The reason the BJP and all politicians are supporting the casinos is because they allow you to convert your black money into white. You can take any amount of money into casinos where you can exchange them for bankers cheques claiming that you won the money in the casino. Casinos are very useful during election time to transfer money from political parties to candidates to bribe voters. The idea behind making a distinction between a on shore and off shore was that Goans would be limited to onshore in five star hotels and only outsiders would come to the off shore casinos. But this was never enforced despite promises by the late Parrikar because of pressure from casino owners. At least on the rare occasion when I have gone to the casinos I have seen and recognized many Goans.
The major objection is to Goan casinos is that they are not strictly regulated unlike casinos in the United States. In the UK and the US and even in Macao there is a government appointed gambling commissioner, who decides how much the payout should be. In the normal course the casinos are expected to pay out or calibrate their machines so that at least 60% if not 80% of the money goes to the gamblers with the house retaining only 20% to 40%. In Goa it’s the reverse, with the casinos retaining 80%. So playing in Goa is not gambling but cheating.
Coming back to the immediate issue, the casinos have to go from the Mandovi river. They can go to Mopa or Canacona but cannot be parked in any water way. If we must have been casinos there must be a ban on youth below 21 entering. Whether on land or water they must be regulated so that the customer is not cheated. Under no circumstances should they be allowed to encroach on any land, let alone footpaths, in the most crowded parts of the capital city.
We are happy that Babush has proved that he is willing and able to carry out his promises. The removal of the illegal structures is a good beginning. It is not only I who is saying this but the response on Facebook to Babush from leading citizens of Panjim has been tremendous. Nobody wants casinos in the Mandovi river and everyone is commending Babush for having guts to take on the casino lobby. Even if the reward for doing so is charges been filed against the MLA and the mayor for removing illegal encroachments.
Since the casinos, and particularly Big Daddy, are hiding behind the skirts and sarees of their women employees and dalals it was appropriate that Pratima Coutinho, the firebrand Mahila Congress chief, led a protest from Azad Maidan to the Big Daddy. The very fact that 200 respectable citizens of Panjim joined her shows the anger against casinos.
The Congress party must support its MLA who has shown the guts to take on the casinos. Indeed the river navigation department should also throw them out so that the jetties can used for leisure activities for tourists and locals and not gambling activities like casinos. Ironically the police who framed charges against Babush and Madkaikar, the Panjim MLA and the Mayor, boast of the number of matka cases they have cracked. Big time gambling of lakhs of rupees is legal but a matka bet of `100 is illegal.
Citizen reactions to the attempt to remove Big Daddy encroachments last Sunday
The pre-meditated provocation by Big Daddy casino staff against the Panjim MLA and Corporators, against removal of their illegal encroachments of public spaces, is a sign that the 2019 mandate empowers the favoured BJP businessmen. Pre-mediated because they know of the pending criminal case against the MLA. Keep in mind that the encroachments had the blessings of the past BJP MLA of Panjim! The irony is, the owner of the Big Daddy is himself facing criminal charges for abetting the suicide of a former air hostess! Don’t forget, 39% of ruling MP’s have criminal cases against them and they are now approved to legislate over India! On top of this, the BJP favoured businessmen are also in the same category!
This is not the only Big Daddy of the local BJP. Even the former Panjim MLA had to listen to the central Daddies. When he got the Defence Minister Portfolio, he hoped to be able to get the Military camp in Panjim vacated. But Big Daddy instead asked him for land for the annual air shows and he promptly offered land in Quepem for the same! The biggest Daddy of all is Gadkari. He was able to get MPT gift all berths and the MOHP to the Jindals/Adanis/Vedantas. No longer will Goans be able to get jobs in MPT! Further, he can steam roll the coal handling despite severe air pollution. Just see how the BJP kids give all kinds of clearances despite visible coal pollution, no need to check for PM2.5. The forced acquiring of the local rivers is another such activity.
Don’t forget Daddy Ambani: all Goa’s traffic islands and key public places are acquired by him for life for his WI-FI towers. Moreover, they don’t have to spend on security as the Goa Traffic Police are providing the same! There is the MRTP Act – Monopoly and restricted Trade Practices, which name is self-explanatory. How can you hand over such prime places to only one service provider? How is it the others are not complaining?
The CRZ ‘relaxation’ to 50m comes from yet another Big Daddy. Oh yes, the local BJP has so many Daddies at the Centre, one now wonders whether the 2019 mandate went to the BJP or certain businessmen?!! All these Daddies come with a whole lot of clout and money power, and like the 2019 poll result, they will get their way, by hook or by crook!
I must marvel the people who reposed faith in the BJP, more so those who support the local BJP which is bending over backwards to the central BJP! This time over it will just be a case of déjà vu!
— R Fernandes, Margao
Its shameful how people not only commit illegalities but also protest when attempts are made to remedy the situation. The Big Daddy casino group is so brazen! I’m a big admirer of Pratima Coutinho — she’s a firebrand leader that needs to get more support and mileage from the Congress if they every want to come back to a position of reconing.
— Blaise Dias, Panaji
I know everyone is wondering if newly elected Panjim MLA Babush Monserrate will fulfil the bigger promises he made — cleaning the St Inez Creek, removing casinos from the Mandovi and giving a government job to every family. We must see action towards the promises about the St Inez Creek and removing the casinos soon. This drive to remove the illegal encroachments was a big step towards removing people’s doubts.
— Nikhil Dessai, Panaji