Thursday, April 25, 2024
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On electoral bonds

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Editor,
According to the two sets of data on Electoral Bonds posted by the Election Commission of India on its website there is no way to establish who donated to which party. Santiago Martin also known as the “Lottery King,” is a prominent figure in India. His company Future Gaming and Hotels, emerged as the top buyer of electoral bonds according to the data posted by the Election Commission of India. Between 2019 and 2024 his firm purchased electoral bonds worth ₹1368 crore. Let us examine who Mr Martin is and what are the implications of Santiago Martin’s electoral bond purchases and is there any legal action being taken against him.
Background and business ventures
Martin began his journey as a labourer in Myanmar and later ventured into the lottery business in Coimbatore, India. His company Future Gaming and Hotels, capitalized on the popularity of two-digit lotteries, building substantial wealth. The Company operated under subsidiaries like Martin Karnataka in South India and Martin Sikkim Lottery in the Himalayan State of Sikkim in the North Eastern Region. The company claims a workforce of over 1000 employees across 13 states where lotteries are legal.
Legal Troubles
Martin has faced multiple legal challenges. In 2008 he was accused of an alleged fraud of over Rs 4,500 crore against the Government of Sikkim. In 2011, he underwent searches by Tamil Nadu and Karnataka Police forces during a crackdown on illegal lottery businesses. In 2013, Kerala Police raided his premises as part of an investigation into illegal lottery operations. In 2015, the Income Tax Department conducted raids across various states, alleging tax evasion and financial irregularities. In May 2023, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) attached ₹ 457 crore under Prevention of Money Laundering Act, linked to an alleged loss of over ₹900 crore to the Government of Sikkim.
Diverse Business Holdings
Beyond lotteries, Martin’s business interests extend to, Martin Homeopathy Medical College and Hospital near Coimbatore. SS Music, a television music channel. M and C Property Development. Martin Nanthavanam Apartments and Leema Real Estate Private Limited.
Implications of Santiago Martin’s electoral bond purchases
The implications of Santiago Martin’s electoral bond purchases are significant and multifaceted. Martin’s substantial electoral bond acquisitions raise questions about transparency in political funding. The use of electoral bonds allows for anonymous donation, which undermines accountability and public trust in the democratic process. The sheer magnitude of Martin’s bond purchases suggests a significant interest in influencing political outcomes. Such large contributions can potentially sway policy decisions and party affiliations. Martin’s involvement has drawn attention from regulatory bodies, including the Election Commission of India and the Enforcement Directorate. Ongoing investigations into electoral bonds and their impact on political funding may reveal further details. Public perceives electoral bonds as a mechanism that favours wealthy donors and corporations. Martin’s involvement reinforces concerns about the influence of money in politics. The Supreme Court’s recent ruling on electoral bonds declared then “unconstitutional” and ordered the disclosure of donors and recipients. Martin’s bond purchases fall within this context, and the court’s decision may have implications for his actions. His case adds fuel to the ongoing debate about electoral reforms. Calls for greater transparency, stricter regulations, and reforms in political funding mechanisms are likely to intensify. Santiago’s electoral bond purchases highlight broader issues related to campaign financing, transparency, and the need for robust regulatory frameworks.
Legal action being taken
The “Lottery King” and top buyer of electoral bonds, is currently facing legal scrutiny and investigations. In September 2019, the Union Home Ministry issued a warning to states about the alleged ‘frauds’ and ‘irregularities’ linked to Martin’s companies, particularly his flagship entity, Future Gaming and Hotel Services Private Limited. The warning specifically mentioned states like West Bengal, Maharashtra and Punjab, where he was allegedly operating. Despite the warning, Future Gaming and Hotels started purchasing a series of electoral bonds in October 2019, totalling ₹190 crore in just that month alone. Overall, between 2019 and 2024, Future Gaming and hotels purchased electoral bonds worth a staggering ₹1368 crore. The Enforcement Directorate has been probing Martin’s financial activities. In May 2023, the ED froze assets worth around ₹ 457 crore under the anti-money laundering law. This investigation is related to an alleged loss of over ₹900 crore to the Sikkim government due to fraudulent sale of the state lottery in Kerala. Future Gaming and Hotels was the master distributor of Sikkim lotteries. Having donated ₹1368 crore his actions are being closely monitored by both the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax Department. State Bank of India (SBI) filed a compliance affidavit with the Supreme Court, revealing that a total of 22,217 bonds were purchased between April 1, 2019, and February 15, 2024. Out of these, 22,030 electoral bonds were redeemed. Around 1300 companies purchased electoral bonds worth ₹12,017 crore in five years. Future Gaming is the only company to exceed the ₹1,000 crore mark. BJP’s share from these EBs was 54.64%, INC 9.34, AITC 9.10, BRS 7.60, BJD 6.44, DMK 5.13, YSR Congress 3.18, TDP 1.22, SHS 0.84, NCP 0.78 and Others 1.72% respectively.
Yours etc.,
V.K.Lyngdoh
Via email

Hypocrisy & religious fanaticism
Editor,
Apropos of Albert Thyrniang’s article “Is VPP the Christian version of BJP,” the writer has hit the ‘bulls-eye’ on the propagandist methods of mixing political ideology with religion. However this is witnessed across all political parties and to single out the VPP is uncalled for. A political analysis shows that the outcome of such meetings where God is called to be a ‘witness’ and the Holy Scriptures are quoted are what I would term as a “soul catching experiment.” However what is depressing is the inability of politicians from going the extra mile to provide what the poorest of the poor need for survival. Even the church gatherings and religious congregations that politicians patronise are just to earn goodwill and votes.
With so many politicians competing with one another to win the favour of religious groups it is ironic that even religious leaders fall over each other to win favours with politicians for funds.
This is where the religious elites have failed the common man on the street and to address the growing poverty all around. Also the Church has failed miserably by failing to admonish and counsel the politicians to be better leaders. The church has failed its people, especially the poorest!
Yours etc..
Dominic S.Wankhar,
Via email

Teenagers need our support
Editor,
I write out of concern about the current situation of teenagers in our society. In recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of issues affecting the mental and emotional well-being of our youth. Today’s teenagers are facing a great deal of stress and pressure. They are exposed to ongoing academic demands, social pressures, and family expectations but often lack the necessary skills to manage these challenges. With the rise in social media use, smartphones, and other digital communication platforms, the challenges that teenagers encounter have increased.
The pressure to perform well academically and get into top colleges is taking a significant toll on teenagers’ mental health. Many teens are struggling with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues as a result of this pressure. They also face the risk of social isolation due to online bullying, cybercrime, or misinformation.
In addition, teenagers nowadays face a plethora of physical health-related issues. A sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits, and lack of exercise have led to an increase in obesity rates, heart-related problems, and diabetes among adolescents.
We must address these issues and devise effective strategies to support our teenagers. Parents, teachers, and healthcare professionals must work together to raise awareness about these issues and provide the right support systems such as counselling, support groups, peer support networks, and community initiatives that encourage healthy engagement habits and relationships with peers and family members.
It is high time that we take these problems seriously and commit ourselves to supporting our youth towards a better future. Together, let us take action and support this next generation for happier and healthier lives.
Yours etc.,
Debaraj Chakraborty,
Via email

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