While in most western societies problem gambling can result in financial woes and mental health problems, in India people have been resorting to using family members as wagers when they have run out of financial assets.
In a recent case, a villager placed a bet with his three-year-old son after he had gambled away all of his money. The authorities intervened after they found out the child had been won by another villager, and have since put tighter rules in place to regulate gambling locally.
It is the latest in a string of cases that highlight the growing issues surrounding gambling in rural India.
Court orders boy must return to family
In disturbing circumstances, the three-year-old was used as a wager by his father, Santosh Kumar, after he had lost all of his money to fellow villager Ram Bhajan Sah. In his wish to continue the game, Kumar was prepared to pay the ultimate price.
When he lost the subsequent bet, the winner then attempted to take the young boy home with him.
The move sparked outrage among local villagers, who staged protests, and the village court was summoned the following day to resolve the dispute.
The court ordered that the boy be left with his family and both parties were required to do sit-ups in public, as well as write a public apology assuring that they would not engage in such activities again in the future.
Shining a light
The village’s local sarpanch (elected head of the village) Shivpati Devi told the media in a statement: “It’s really serious to put his son or someone from the family on bet. We have taken it very seriously and banned gambling in the village. From now on anyone caught involved in this will face severe punitive action.”
The incident has shone a light on just how big an issue problem gambling can be in these villages. It is not the first case of its type, but is reportedly the first to involve a child.
Authorities have now banned gambling in the village where the incident took place, but it is unclear how they will enforce the new ban, and what the consequences will be for those who may breach it. It also remains to be seen what effects it has on local gambling issues.
Gambling family members away
The latest case involving the wager of a little boy is not the first time a family member has been used to fund a bet in the province of Bihar.
In a previous case, a man used his wife as currency in a bet over a bottle of liquor. The story was brought to the attention of the authorities when the wife contacted a women’s helpline.
Another case took place in 2007, when a 25-year-old woman placed herself as the wager in a bet and was then held by the winner in his home for days before being rescued after villagers intervened.
The woman had been playing in the annual gambling fair and lost Rs 7,000 ($100) and eventually placed herself as the bet after losing all of her funds to other villagers.
The latest case appears to be the first reported case where a child has been involved and could be an indicator that the situation is getting even more severe than when these other past cases took place.
The cases evoke the ancient legend from the epic Mahabharata where the Pandavas lost their wife to Kaurava when gambling. The intervention of the authorities will hopefully raise awareness over the issue but it does not tackle the root problem that is currently engrained within the gambling culture in certain localities in India.