Editor's Note: This is the first part of Madhyamam's investigative series on online gambling and online games like rummy
"I haven't been able to sleep for a few days, I lost 30 lakhs via an online game. I have been playing it all day and night and not able to get out of it. I am not able to concentrate on work nor spend time with children. Even when I am about to commit suicide, I feel like playing the game one more time. You have to look after our children well. If possible, spread this message on social media. Online games should be banned. It will save people from becoming an addict to it as I did." This is the audio message that 36-year-old Vijayakumar who lost everything to online gaming sent his wife in October before committing suicide.
Vijayakumar is not the first person to commit suicide after failing in online gambling and won't be the last either. Vineet, a Thiruvananthapuram Kutichil resident who allegedly took his own life after suffering a huge loss in online gambling is the latest example. Vineet had suffered the loss of 50 crores. He was playing it after borrowing money from others. It was when he lost all the money that he realized the consequences of what he did and how he tore his own life into pieces.
There are several examples within Kerala and outside that show that online games are taking the lives of people.
It was just a few months back when Vineet (20), a third-year BCA student from Chennai took his life after failing to repay the money he had borrowed for spending on the online gamble. A letter was also received that he was taking his life because he lost the money to an online gamble and asked to forgive him.
It was rummy that took Vineeth's life whereas an online prediction game took the life of Niteesh's. There are several such games in different names.
Colours get changed, the money is lost and all sites have a similar appearance. One has to online recharge their phone with at least 100 rs. The colours appear every three minutes. One has to give the money and predict which is the next colour. No matter how it's carefully observed, the company will only receive the money. What attracts the people is how the payment procedures of the game are quick and hassle-free.
The promotions of the games are done via Whatsapp and Telegram groups.
Just like every other addiction, people begin playing it to pass time and for fun. Slowly, the game gets interesting and the desire to earn more and play the game increases as one receives a small amount of money or gift as a reward. Stories and news of people receiving lakhs motivate them to continue playing it. Although many have lost money by playing like this, none of them speaks about it which contributes to more fraudulent activities.
It was only in May when Satish Kumar, a polytechnic student from Erode, Tamil Nadu swooned and fell on the floor after continuously playing the game for 12 hours. According to reports, it is estimated that ten people have died in India after playing the blue whale game. It has also been concluded that the suicide of two teenagers in Wayanad during November is Bluewhale.
In Kannur district, a daughter had spent 6 lakh rupees on online gambling which her father had set aside to build their home. It was after the father filed a complaint that his money was getting debited unknowingly when the police who investigated it found out the actual reason. A 13-year-old boy from Amalapuram in Andhra Pradesh's Godavari district has used 5.56 lakhs from his mother's two accounts to buy weapons. Most games end in violence. During the lockdown, we could see parents and children playing ludo together.
Recently, a ludo game ended up disrupting a family.
A 24-year-old woman in Vadodara was admitted to the hospital after she was mercilessly thrashed by her husband over an online ludo game. The reason is that the wife had defeated him four times in a row in the game. A ludo app developed by the Mumbai-based company became the most downloaded 6th app in May. In another case, two emails were sent to parents asking for money. They filed a complaint when they received the first mail. It was when the police investigated the second mail that they found out that it was sent by their 12-year-old son.
The children are not hesitant to choose any way to get money to play games. A 17-year-old student from Punjab had spent 16 lakhs to purchase items from the game. The police and government who used to chase men who played gambling are not even looking into the online rummy that is laundering millions of money every day. The police have justified that there is no law to look into it. How else would we prevent the deaths and violence that these online gambling games are responsible for?
Read the second and third part of the series here
(With concerns for the safety of children and youth, the name of the game and the methods to play it are deliberately omitted)