Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jun 22:
Illegal street-side gambling has become the new normal across Odisha’s capital city, frequently spawning crimes but tip-happy Commissionerate Police could not care less.
The gambling centres operate just about everywhere under every police station limits: in lodges and hotels, small tents and at times out in the open by the roadside. But for obvious reasons, the police pretends not to see them.
While the upper class with high value gamblers choose lodges and hotels, the lower-income group takes to the street side centres.
As we found during a recent investigation, many employees of Odisha Secretariat, many established businessmen, travel agency owners, builders and gangsters are involved in running these gambling centres. Most of them are gamblers themselves.
Even though these centres are present everywhere, a few of the centres such as the one operating on the backside of the Secretariat, near the high security zone of Platform-1 at the Bhubaneswar railway station, on the backside of the Mahatma Gandhi park, near Jayadev Vihar overbridge and Unit-VIII DAV School have gained notoriety for their scale and participation of a large number of players.
The centres operate from early morning till very late in the night. Liquor, marijuana and other intoxicants flow free, scuffles are a standard and crimes follow. Chain snatching, pick pocketing and loot are also frequent in nearby areas.
Even though the cops earlier raided the railway station and secretariat dens and had arrested four and five persons from the two dens respectively, the absence of post-raid vigilance has encouraged the perpetrators to resume their business in the very same places again.
As we found out, the secretariat centre operates from a temple and a deserted house on the backside of the Secretariat. Most of its members are employees of the secretariat and some land dealers though some government contractors also gamble there. The’ business hours’ coincide with the office hours: 10 AM till 5 PM. The secretariat employees go to the office to punch in their attendance and then rush back to the gambling centers to resume play.
Apart from these centres, gambling goes on in the open near Raj Mahal square, Ashok Nagar, Kalpana square, Phalikia market, Patharbandha slums, VSS Nagar level crossing, Bomikhal, Kesura, Chandrasekharpur, Infocity, Nuapalli, Mancheswar, Laxmisagar etc.
The cops had busted a high-profile gambling gang from a deserted house near Kesura four days back and had seized Rs 1.63 lakh rupees. It had also got leads about the connections of bus owners, builders and established businessmen with the game. However, no strong action has been taken against them and gambling still goes on.