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|February 15, 1999||
Kerala opposes Centre's move to ban fortune industry
Uncertainty looms over the future of the "fortune industry" in Kerala following the Union government's move to impose a nation-wide ban on lotteries.
Kerala generates Rs 1 billion upwards as annual revenues from lotteries.
Any decision against the lotteries would leave more than 250,000 people jobless, said official sources. The state government is of the view that any blanket ban without considering the local conditions would have serious consequences on the state's economy.
State Finance Minister T Sivadasa Menon, in a recent letter to Union Home Minister L K Advani, pointed out that the Centre had received a revenue of Rs 150 million in 1996-97 from the Kerala lotteries by way of income-tax on the prize amount, while the state government made a profit of Rs 135 million.
The infamous private and single-digit lotteries are not allowed In Kerala. So lottery-related suicides and other related crimes are unheard of. "The system is transparent. There is no scope for money laundering by the prize-winners," state lotteries director A Sasidharan Nair said.
Menon had told the state assembly during the current session that the government did not agree with the move to ban lotteries. Instead, it wanted only private, single digit and instant lotteries to be banned.
The Kerala lotteries department, managed by 550-odd government staff, runs four weekly lotteries including Maveli, Periyar, Soubhagya, Kairali and the monthly bumper tickets. The business in some states is being managed by organisers who share the profits with the state governments.
The Kerala lottery was launched in 1967 to mobilise resources for the state's developmental activities. The profit which was Rs 1.4 million during the first year, had shot up to Rs 15 million the following two years.
According to sources, the state government had made a profit of Rs 107 million in 1994-95, Rs 118.6 million the following year and Rs 135 million in 1996-97. The estimated receipt from the lottery scheme in the 1998-99 Budget is Rs 1.6 billion and expenditure Rs 932.4 million.
There were more than 25,000 recognised lottery agents in the state with 200,000 sub-agents who support dependents, many of whom are disabled and old, the sources added.
They further said the proposed ban would adversely affect people belonging to the low-income strata.
According to the Association of Lottery Agents and Sellers, though lottery tickets of many states were being sold here, the lotteries of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka enjoyed the maximum credibility as they were being run directly by the state governments.
As the tickets were being printed in the government press, their security is ensured with the government deciding the number of tickets and series to be printed. The distribution network is also highly systematic, the sources added.
Lottery agents in the state have also demanded that instead of imposing a blanket ban, the government should conduct an inquiry into the functioning of lotteries in various states and ban those which violate the rules.
The Kerala Lottery Agents Association, which is planning a series of agitations against the proposed ban, has called for corrective measures for doing away with the corruption that had crept into the industry.
The state lotteries director said :"A ban on all lotteries is unnecessary and unreasonable. What we need is a ban on private and sponsored lotteries."
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