25 Jun - 01 Jul, 2013
small world
An Odds Thing to Happen

NEW DELHI ~ Once upon a time there was something called a dabba in Gurgaon. This was a facility a bettor could purchase from a bookie at a cost of Rs 4,000 a month. The dabba came with a dedicated phone line. Put on speaker mode, it transformed into a live radio in which a man blurted out in thick Jat accent: “Ball chaaloo hone wala hai ab…India par doh ka paanch… (The match’s about to start... 2/5 on India)”. You could hear live cricket commentary with current betting rates on it. Many bettors would share one dabba and place bets through a separate phone number of the bookie. In the IPL final of 2012, the dabba told the gamblers that the odds were Rs 1.22 for KKR and 83 paise for CSK. That meant that if a person bet on CSK and it won, he got 83 paise for every rupee. The dabba, alas, is now no more, thanks to the recent spot-fixing arrests.

“After the Sreesanth scandal, the dabba has suddenly gone silent,” says an infotech professional in Gurgaon who loves to punt. There is an atmosphere of fear and the usual systems have disappeared. He wanted to bet during the match between India and Pakistan in the current ICC Champions Trophy, but could not locate his usual betting sources. Mobile phones have been switched off and numbers changed. “Some [bookies] were arrested after the Sreesanth case. The rest have downed their shutters and disappeared. My friends who love to wage bets are taking it easy till the crisis passes,” he says.

A bookie, who also runs an underground poker club in New Delhi, says that both his cricket-betting and poker businesses have gone down. “IPL6 was a dream run. After the scandal, people are just scared. It’s not that they have gone away, but it is very difficult to find a reliable bookie and place bets on a cricket match now. You can try online,” he says.

Meanwhile, traffic at Casino Royale in Goa has increased. “Before the scandal, we had only one poker table running. Now, there are at least three running every day. The weekends are even bigger,” says Dheeraj, a manager at the casino.

Take Two
The Outsiders

It was somewhere between interesting and amusing to watch Himachal Pradesh’s Director General of Police, B Kamal Kumar, on Headlines Today. The issue in question was his statement that migrant labourers were responsible for most crimes in the state. He wanted I-cards for them and their antecedents verified before they were allowed to work in the state. In the clip where he made these suggestions, Kumar can also be heard saying that migrants from Nepal and Bihar were the main culprits. As the channel’s anchors got ready to pummel him, he had a sudden insight into geographical conditioning and made quick amends by saying that migrant-criminals were independent of region. And then, as both a contradiction of what he had just said and an illustration of it, he added Punjabis and Haryanvis to the list.

Kumar is in the long line of politicians and policemen who are convinced about migrants making crime uncontrollable in big cities. The corollary to this is that if you address migration, you will address crime. In January 2012, after the rape of a Manipuri girl, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said just as much. Raj Thackeray has made a career out of holding Bihari migrants responsible for everything under the sun, including probably the dispute between North Korea and the United States. In one TV interview, he was asked for evidence showing their link to crime. He retorted that the interviewer just had to ask any policeman informally. Thackeray was probably not lying. The Mumbai Police would think like that.

Decent intelligent people would be a little confused about how to react to such statements. At one level, anecdotal evidence seems to show that it is self-evident and true. It also seems inherently distasteful to make that connection. There is, however, a way to approach the issue so that both hold true—allowing that migration increases crime but also its being venal to highlight it.

Let’s begin by moving away from regular crimes to something bigger like unimaginable corruption. In the past few years, you would therefore have the case of A Raja who is alleged to have made a few thousand crore out of illegally selling airwaves that didn’t belong to him. There would also be Suresh Kalmadi who, as president of the Indian Olympic Association, is alleged to have used India’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games to enrich himself. Raja is a man from Tamil Nadu who was based in Delhi when he saw the opportunity. Kalmadi is from Pune and was also in Delhi as a Member of Parliament while organising the Games. Both are, therefore, migrants. After these scams broke out, you did not hear Manmohan Singh or the CBI chief saying that corruption has increased because of migrants from Tamil Nadu or Maharashtra. Or take government departments where transfers are frequent, like Excise or Income Tax. Corruption is institutionalised in them. But on the rare arrest of any IT officer whose native home is somewhere else, the Finance Minister does not say it is a migrant problem.

When it is said that migrants increase crime, they therefore always mean those at the lower end of the social scale, a threat to the nice happy lives of the middle and upper middle-class. When a policeman or a minister wants migration regulated, he or she essentially wants one particular class sanitised. In the process, they will make rules for the 95 per cent in that class who are honourable hardworking men.

Anyone who is silly enough to control crime in cities by controlling migrants needs to come up with another definition for a city. Any city that exists today is a creation of migrants. If you stop them, you stop its growth. The standard of living will go down because labour will become expensive or non-existent. The large numbers that come into a city are like veins carrying blood and oxygen into its heart. If they want to change the complexion of Indian society for something that normal competent policing can do, then good luck and God bless.

Improper Prop

A scantily clad actress posing seductively with Christian religious symbols has led to some trouble for the upcoming Sanjay Dutt starrer Policegiri. One of the stills of the movie reportedly has actress Kavitta Verma posing provocatively with a rosary and cross. This has led to protests by some Christian groups. Within days, father-son producer duo TP and Rahul Aggarwal met representatives of the community and assured them that Policegiri had no such stills or scenes. The blame was put squarely on the young actress for committing the blasphemy in a bid to promote herself. A demure and fully covered up Verma sat in on the meeting and tendered a signed apology to Joseph Dias, founder of The Catholic-Christian Secular Forum, which led the protest. Verma wrote that she ‘made a mistake’ and promised ‘to use religious objects in a reverential manner in the future.’’