Panaji: Seven people, including Louis Berger officials and one alleged hawala operator were issued summons by The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday.
The summons were issued in relation with a money laundering case filed in connection with the international bribery scandal involving the global consultancy company alongwith Goa’s politicians and bureaucrats.
Talking to reporters, a senior official of ED said that Satyakam Mohanty, Maladi Shivarama and Sanjay Jindal (former Louis Berger officials), Raichand Soni, an alleged hawala operator and three others were issued summons to appear before ED officials in Goa.
The ED officials have filed an Enforcement Case Investigation Record, following the bribery scandal.
Former Goa Chief Minister Digambar Kamat, along with the then state public works department minister Churchill Alemao and other government officials have been accused of allegedly accepting a $976,630 bribe in 2010 from officials of US-based Louis Berger consultancy firm.
The bribe was allegedly taken to secure implementation rights of a multi-billion dollar water and sewerage project in Goa worth Rs.1,031 crore funded by the Japan International Co-Operation Agency (JICA), cleared in 2010 by a Congress-led coalition government.
While Alemao has been arrested, Kamat is currently out on anticipatory bail.
Soni, Mohanty and now former JICA director Anand Wachasundar have already been arrested by the Goa Police Crime Branch which is investigating the bribery case.
With domestic flights scheduled from May 25, the Goa government has written to the central government and the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) for permission to conduct anti-body tests of passengers alighting at Goa’s Dabolim international airport.
Health Minister Vishwajit Rane said, here on Saturday, in a request to the ICMR and the Civil Aviation Minister, the state government had said air passengers headed to Goa be issued Covid-19 negative certificate at the time of boarding the flight.
“I have requested the ICMR and the Civil Aviation Ministry to permit us to conduct antibody testing of passengers and they be issued a Covid-19 negative certificate to enter the state via domestic flights from Monday,” Rane told reporters.
A lot of systems and structures have had to change since the coronavirus pandemic struck. Many Indians and people around the world have been forced to shut down businesses andsocial activities. With no options left than to stay at home, people now have to find other activities to substitute their usual daily activities.
Almost everyone is now turning to online activities to keep them busy. They now have to socialize with friends and entertain themselves online. As a result of this, licensed online casinos are receiving more visitors than before.
Land-based Casinos Closed Down
All the popular casinos in Goa, Daman, and other regions have been forced to close. The Goa government had ordered the closure of educational institutions and public places including casinos from March 15. Some other states had earlier announced shut down in activities while some followed after. All in an attempt to curb the spread of the disease.
Before the shutdown, the online gambling industry in India was already growing at a steady pace. But as soon as the land-based casinos were shut down, the industry experienced a massive increase in activities.
Many regular Indian gamblers have turned to the online versions of their various casino games. Due to the lack of business and other activities, these gamblers have also had more time to spend gambling. Several online casinos confirmed this increase in the rate of online gambling. There have been many new registrations and a rise in the activity of regular online gamers.
Sports Events Cancelled
Most large sporting events and tournaments have also been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League which was supposed to start on March 29 was postponed till April 15. The Board of Control for Cricket in India further postponed it indefinitely after the nationwide lockdown was extended.
Also, the Olympics which was scheduled to hold this year has been postponed till 2021. The decision was inevitable as the decision board had to ensure the safety of the athletes first.
The EuroCup was another major tournament that had to be postponed. So many smaller tournaments around the world have also been affected. This caused the sports betting industry to suffer greatly.
There are no longer matches and tournaments to stake on. Sports betting sites experienced a great reduction in the activity of sports gamblers and begun to find alternatives.
People who regularly visit land-based betting halls and online betting sites have been pushed towards online casinos. These sports gamblers are learning how to play casino games and staking their monies, awaiting the time sporting events will resume again.
Online Casinos Become A Way To Kill Boredom During Lockdown
Indians are now stuck at home due to the lockdown and restrictions placed to curb the spread of the disease. With the lack of activities to take their time, many people have had to deal with boredom. Most people spend the day surfing the internet to consume online content. As a result, there has been a sharp increase in players turning to licensed online casinos to ward off boredom.
With the abundance of online casino games, they have a variety of options to choose from.
Leaders in the online gaming industry confirmed an increase in the number of Indians who play games like Rummy, Teen Patti, Andar Bahar, and many others.
The country is currently one of the largest contributors to the growth of online gambling in the world. The last 10 years saw pretty rapid growth. This is due to the increase in the population of people making use of the internet and smartphones. Approximately 30 billion
US dollars is earned as online gambling revenue every year. Most of the revenue gotten each year can be attributed to the online and mobile sectors.
2018 ended with 566 million internet users in India. Before 2020 ends, this figure is expected to grow to 730 million. We can conclude that the online casino market will continue to increase as the Indian mobile and internet users increase.
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Schools, colleges and universities worldwide have been closed since March 11, 2020 when COVID-19 was declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a global pandemic.
But for 69 lecturers of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), the door was shut against them since May 11, 2018 – two years ago. Like the outbreak of COVID-19, there was no warning. These lecturers were ambushed with retrenchment letters in the middle of the semester while teaching students in class.
The dismissal letters gave them seven days to take their personal property and vacant the premises. They were caught off-guard with mortgages, loans, rent and bills to pay as well as families to feed. They were suddenly without a job and medical insurance.
The stay-at-home retrenchment order was triggered to these “surplus” lecturers who had become “redundant” in the university’s “restructuring exercise.” Was their forced quarantine justified? Let’s look at the facts and revelations, using my situation as a case study.
My teaching load was higher
In all its internal and external releases, University of Trinidad and Tobago has declared that lecturers’ teaching load (as opposed to work-load, which would have included research and service) was the main criterion used to select teaching staff for retrenchment.
UTT’s disclosure to my Freedom of Information (FOIA) application after I was dismissed states that I was carrying a teaching load of 70.8%, excluding Practicum. However, there were other Assistant Professors who had considerably lower teaching load percentages, but were not selected for retrenchment.
Some of them had scores as low as 15%, 28%, 35%, 38%, etc. In fact, of the 20 Assistant Professors who were retained, only two (2) or 10% had higher teaching load percentages than mine.
Although my teaching load percentage (70.8%) was higher than most of my former colleagues, who were retained, I should have earned yet a higher teaching score had it not been for an error and contradiction on the part of UTT.
University of Trinidad and Tobago’s disclosure to me after I was fired reveals that the PRACTICUM courses I taught were not counted as part of my teaching load. However, the same PRACTICUM Term 2 courses (PRAC 1002 and PRAC 2002) were counted for my colleagues, Additionally, a PRACTICUM Term 3 course (PRAC 2001) was counted for others but not for me.
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These errors and contradictions by UTT are important to note because the university has declared that lecturers’ teaching load was the main criterion used to select teaching staff for retrenchment.
These errors and contradictions in computing the teaching load scores for me constitute bias, inequality, unfairness and injustice in selecting me for retrenchment. These mistakes and paradoxes resulted in my dismissal which caused me grave humiliation, pain, suffering, stress, trauma and rejection as well as loss of income, status, dignity, pride and institutional affiliation.
Was this Programme really being phased out?
In many of its releases and correspondences, University of Trinidad and Tobago has stated that I and other lecturers were retrenched because the Secondary School Specialisation courses which they taught were being phased out as part of the university’s restructuring exercise.
At the dismissal meeting at the Centre for Education Programmes (CEP) at UTT, administrator Dr Judy Rocke also told the assembled lecturers that all Secondary School Specialisation courses were being phased out, resulting in us being “redundant” in the university’s “restructuring exercise.” The following facts reveal that this statement is not true.
These same courses were timetabled for a NEW cohort of students during the new semester which began in September 3, 2018. These Secondary School Specialisation courses are taught from Year 2. One of these courses which was not phased out for the new Year 2 student-intake was ANTH 2001- Caribbean Cultural Anthropology, which I taught. After my retrenchment, I was replaced by a lecturer who was not qualified to teach ANTH 2001.
Substitute lecturers not qualified
The Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT) made the following written disclosures to me, dated August 23, 2019. Its Executive Director, Dr Eduardo Ali, stated that my substitute lecturer was “not qualified to teach” ANTH 2001. Additionally, Dr Ali stated that another substitute lecturer teaching the course TVOC 2003: Job Task Analysis in Semester 1 during the Academic Year 2018-2019 at CEP was also “not qualified to teach the said course”.
I began my tenure at UTT as an Assistant Professor in January 2007 – longer than most of my former colleagues, who held Ph.D. degrees in CEP. My latest Performance Management and Appraisal Process (PMAP) appraisal score dated October 3, 2017 was 95 out of 100. This score was given, approved and endorsed by my immediate supervisor, Dr Judy Rocke, who paradoxically selected me for dismissal.
Myskills and qualifications are more diverse than those of most of my former teaching colleagues. My M.Phil. degree is in the Humanities (Literatures in English) and my Ph.D. is in the Social Sciences (Anthropology).
Dr. Mahabir is a former Organization of American States (OAS) Fellow and the recipient of a Government National Award for Education.