Panaji: The Congress on Thursday questioned Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s resolve to rein in offshore casinos from dumping sewage into the Mandovi river off Panaji, in which the vessels are parked. Addressing a press conference in Panaji, state Congress President Girish Chodankar also said, that casino industry was under-reporting the number of patrons who visit the gambling facilities, which annually causes a loss of Rs 5,000 crore to the state exchequer. Also Read – Over 62.71 lakh pilgrims have visited Vaishno Devi this year “The Chief Minister can warn a biker to not pollute a river with ‘nirmalya’ (flowers offered to God), but has no stern words for the offshore casinos who are dumping sewage into the Mandovi river,” Chodankar said. “He can tell the poor not to pollute, but does not have the guts to tell the powerful casino lobby. He probably knew that randomly cautioning an ordinary person from dumping flowers could give him publicity.” The state Congress president was referring to Sawant’s Twitter post on Wednesday, in which he had uploaded a video of him stopping his convoy to caution a person dumping ‘nirmalya’ into a river. The post had gone viral on social media. Also Read – Man gets life term for raping minor daughter-in-law Chodankar also criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state for taking a U-turn on the casino issue. “The BJP was opposing casinos initially, late Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar even threatened to finish off the industry. But now they are defending it, calling it integral to tourism,” Chodankar said. “Casinos have complete control over Goa. Every MLA has been given an ATM. Chief Minister is managed by casinos.” The state Congress President also alleged that the casino industry was depriving the state exchequer of Rs 5,000 crore annually by under-reporting its footfalls. “They are only showing 10 per cent entry of patrons. 90 per cent activity on casino is illegal. Most of the transactions including buying of gambling chips is in cash and not accounted for. There is a revenue loss of Rs. 5,000 revenue loss every year,” Chodankar said. There are six operational offshore casinos and nearly a dozen onshore casinos in Goa. The state government earns a percentage of the entry fee charged by the casinos to each individual patron, but Chodankar said, that there was not a single official to oversee and count how many gamblers visit a particular casino on any given day.
“In addition to illegal settlements, the practice of demolishing Palestinian structures in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and displacing Palestinians undermines the prospects of peace,” said Nickolay Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. Briefing the 15-member body on the latest developments, Mr. Mladenov reported that since June, Israel’s illegal settlement activities have continued at a “high rate,” a consistent pattern over the course of this year. Activity during this period was concentrated primarily in occupied East Jerusalem, where plans were advanced for over 2,300 housing units in July, 30 per cent more than for the whole of 2016. The reporting period witnessed the eviction of a Palestinian family in Sheikh Jarrah, residents for over 50 years, after a protracted legal battle. The building is located in a section of the neighbourhood in which several settlement plans were among those promoted in July. “The United Nations considers all settlement activities to be illegal under international law andan impediment to peace,” the Special Coordinator stated. He went on to note that violence persisted as one of the main obstacles to resolving the conflict. Although the reporting period was characterized by relatively low levels of fatalities, a number of incidents occurred, resulting in the deaths of 19 Palestinians and eight Israelis. Settler-related violence and punitive demolitions of Palestinians homes by the Israeli authorities also continued. “Continued violence against civilians and incitement perpetuate mutual fear and suspicion, while impeding any efforts to bridge the gaps between the two sides,” said Mr. Mladenov. “I once again urge both Palestinians and Israelis to demonstrate their commitment to rejecting violence, inflammatory rhetoric and provocative actions.”