Protests against casinos mark I-Day in Goa

Panaji, Aug 15 (IANS) As the Indian tricolour unfurled along the Mandovi river in Goa, a swimmer curled up with the waves and landed on the shore Thursday.

Sudip Dalvi swam to the banks of the Mandovi that flanks state capital Panaji and is home to five offshore casinos - after jumping into the river from the opposite bank.

His swim was a protest against casino vessels parked midstream in the river.

His slogan: "Free rivers from casinos".

"The casino lobby, the drugs mafia and prostitution rackets are together a nexus of evil, and have common clients. Something must be done to stop this menace creating an image of Goa as a Sin City," he said, as he walked up from the banks to the very spot where Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar had unfurled the national flag some hours earlier.

"I am an ordinary person who has no political connections, funds or crowds for my drive to rely upon, so the only way for spreading awareness about my drive is to do something I know, which is swimming for a cause! From my past experiences, I know well that when a citizen comes forward to do something good for society, people too respond with equal enthusiasm," said Dalvi, as if refreshed by the swim.

A day before his swim, the Goa cabinet decided to "not allow any further casinos in the state of Goa", buckling under tremendous pressure from civil society as well as the Opposition.

Parrikar has maintained that he would also move the casinos from the Mandovi river to the deep sea.

Protests against casinos appear to be the flavour of Independence Day in Goa this year, with another non-government organisation, the Aam Aadmi Party and Aurat Against Casino (AAAG) also staging a demonstration in Panaji against the permission given to a new offshore casino to operate in the river, a few days before the government capped the casino permissions Wednesday.

"This is to protest the decision of the government to give permission to a new casino. The meeting decided to step up the momentum to ouster casinos as the government mistakenly thinks that the public is indifferent," Sabina Martins, the convenor of AAAG, told reporters.

Goa has five operational onshore casinos and a dozen-odd onshore casinos housed in the numerous five star resorts dotting Goa's coastline.

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