The Hynniewtrep Youth Council (HYC) on Tuesday demanded that the Meghalaya government repeal the Meghalaya Regulation of Gaming Act and Rules and stop wasting public money by removing the chairman and other members of the Gaming Commission.
“We demand the state government should repeal the aforesaid Act and Rules immediately and stop wasting of public money in giving salary to the chairman and other members of Gaming Commission by immediately removing them and last but not the least the three temporary licences already issued should immediately be scrapped by putting the notice or order in this regard in the public domain,” HYC said in a letter to Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma.
It added, “We also demand from the government to further strengthen the law relating to prohibition of gambling activities both online and offline in the State.”
The HYC said the Taxation department in the absence of the Cabinet approval has constituted the Departmental Search/Selection Committee, appointed the Chairman and Expert Member of the Gaming Commission, which is in contravention to Section 27 of the Act and Rule 14 of the Rules.
It said in the past few months, religious groups, traditional institutions, pressure groups, MDCs, MLAs and political parties have expressed reservation and objections against the implementation of the Act and Rules on the ground that it will affect the religious beliefs, societal values and will further increase crimes and other social evils like prostitution, alcoholism, drug abuse etc., etc.
Referring to the RTI reply of the PIO, Commissioner of Taxes on August 17, the HYC said it was informed that the Taxation department had constituted the Search or Selection Committee for the purpose of appointment of the chairman and other members of the Gaming Commission. The reply also clearly stated that the cabinet has never discussed or approved such an appointment of a gaming commission.
“We were also informed that till the month of August 2022 the process of granting of licenses is actively being considered by the Department under the provisions of the Act and Rules. The Reply provided is reproduced here as follows: “Processing as per provisions of the Meghalaya Regulation of Gaming Act, 2021 and rules framed thereunder is ongoing,” it said.
It added, “However, as per the statement made by you on the floor of the House that since the month of May 2022, when you had met the religious leaders, no further activities took place with regard to granting of licences for gambling activities. But this very statement of yours is contradictory to the information provided to us by the PIO, Commissioner of Taxes and now we are in a dilemma as to which statement is correct and whom to believe”
The HYC further stated that it does not buy the Chief Minister’s statement that legalizing gambling will increase the revenue generation of the state to Rs 500-600 crore annually.
“The reason being that you have continuously given contradictory statements in this regard from one day to another by stating initially that this will bring revenue of about Rs 8 to 10 crores annually (May 2022) and then later you changed it Rs 500-600 crores annually (September 18, 2022) in multiple of times after several quarters had raised objections to the same,” it said while adding, “Secondly, we are of the opinion that if the State Government can check the Revenue leakages as has been repeatedly pointed and flagged by the CAG Reports every year, the State Government can easily saved about Rs 1500-2000 crores annually.”
The HYC said that the state government through its various departments has time and again been accused of over-estimating or escalating or inflating the value of contracts for various works leading to the loss of public money running into hundreds and thousands of crores annually.
The state government is known for spending public money on "nonsense festivals like Cherry Blossoms and other useless festivals" instead if this money is spent on some constructive activities like building roads, bridges, school buildings and social welfare schemes, then the State Government would not have needed to gamble with the future of the State by legalising Gambling activities.