Like all projects, big and small, in India, the decision of the Goa government to allow the setting up of six new off-shore casinos to encourage attract foreign tourists has run into major trouble. Although only two licenses have been issued, fishing communities in South Goa are up in arms against the Leela Group which has been dredging the River Sal to anchor its vessel for the floating casino.
Protestors and environmentalists claim the desilting being carried out to allow its luxury vessel to berth along the hotel’s Cavelossin property, would disturb the river’s ecological balance and destroy the traditional fishermen’s harvest of shellfish and clams. The Church, which warns of the “social damage” of the casinos, and the Congress party too have backed the protests. The Congress had protested the then BJP government’s decision to allow Goa’s first offshore casino.
Questions: Are protests of this nature reasonable or are they becoming endemic under the “environment” banner? Are vested interests seeking to derail the new casinos by firing from the shoulders of fishermen? Is setting up floating casinos just a ruse to circumvent the law which bans gambling? Are governments wrong in setting up casinos to generate foreign exchange by wooing foreign tourists? Should locals be barred from gambling in offshore casinos as in Nepal so as to limit the “social damage” of the casinos?