ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Calcutta Diary

The ongoing commotion, the medley of accusations and counteraccusations, does not deter the Indian bookmaker. He makes a pragmatic assessment of the ingredients of ground reality. What poses a challenge of a different nature is that, under Indian law, betting in cricket is a criminal offence. But the way-out is simple. Why not amend the piece of legislation so that betting in cricket is no longer a culpable offence? The solution is indeed breath-taking. We could likewise take out rape and murder from the roster of criminal offences and murderers and rapists would immediately belong to the lily-white species.

Not to take notice of the incident will be to play false to contemporary history. The furore over betting and payments on the outcome of international cricket fixtures was giving India a bad name. But simmer down, where there is a will, there is a way. The union minister for sports himself, no less, has suggested an easy way- out of the predicament. Let us be realists, the nation must catch up with the times. Most of the hullabaloo has been occasioned by an arcane law which fails to take into account the datum that our country is now an integral part of a complex global system. The central point at issue is the invocation, against this background, of economic efficiency as the be all and end all of human existence. The notion of efficiency is defined in terms of a single criterion: whatever maximises money-making from a particular line of activity reflects the hallmark of efficiency, and let not anyone try to tell you something that is different. Consider, for instance, the situation obtaining in the arena of international cricket. In addition to the fees a cricketer is entitled to for participating in international fixtures, provided he has already established a reputation for himself through his performance in the field, he is a major candidate for endorsing luxury consumer goods, durable as well as non-durable. It is not an even playing field though. You may represent a country where the domestic market for luxury commodities is of a restricted size, perhaps because of its sparse population; endorsement money is therefore unlikely to flow at a fast pace toward your direction. Never mind, just give in to temptation, you will receive thoroughgoing technical advice in the matter from the subcontinent’s bookmakers and the mafia crowd they belong to. Betting is easy money, you don’t have to even append your signature on a piece of paper; an oral commitment will do; a tradition has developed whereby your word of mouth is worth its weight in gold or whatever other coveted precious metals you can conceive. The scope for personal embarrassment, you have been assured, is as good as negligible these days: trade and payment devices have been dematerialised to such an extent that it is not at all easy to trace the source of origin of a commitment or a pledge entered into in the name of x, y or z. The individual concerned remains invisible, but the havoc he can create both to the social process and the moral foundation on which the economy is supposed to stand is of frightening proportions.

The matter is worth pursuing further. The Indian bookmaker operates at different levels. The ongoing commotion, the medley of accusations and counter-accusations, does not deter him. He makes a pragmatic assessment of the ingredients of ground reality. What however poses a challenge of a different nature is the fact that, under Indian law, betting in cricket is a criminal offence. The cricketers and cricket administrators from different countries, who have, wittingly or unwittingly, openly or surreptitiously, taken bets on the possible outcome of this or that match, can be taken care of without much difficulty. The way-out is very simple. Why not amend the piece of legislation and inform the world that betting in cricket is no longer a culpable offence in India? The solution suggested is indeed of a breath-taking calibre. In case it receives social approval, it could be applied with equal felicity, to tackle other outstanding national problems as well. We could take out rape and murder from the roster of criminal offences; what a relief, all murderers and rapists would immediately be declared as belonging to the lily-white species; once the law is changed murders and rapes would cease to be anti-social acts.

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