A 38-year-old man who ran a mobile shop in the village of Korkadu near Puducherry set himself on fire a few days ago after losing more than 30 lakh rupees in an online rummy game. A WhatsApp voice note he sent his wife minutes before taking the extreme plunge has since gone viral, sparking widespread demand for a ban on online gaming.
In the audio recording, Vijaykumar said, “I haven’t slept well the last few days. I lost around 30 lakh rupees in online gambling. I played day and night. I got addicted to it, it was like drugs. I couldn’t get out of it. Even now I want to play this game again. I can’t concentrate on work, I can’t spend time with you or the children. Go back to your hometown, take care of the children. If there is one thing you can do to help me, please stream this audio to all social media platforms and try to ban this game online because, like me, several others have been trapped in these games.
He had started playing the game to kill time during the lockdown period, but eventually became addicted to it. After initially earning around a thousand rupees, he started investing more money and eventually lost everything. To recoup the loss he had borrowed more money and in the end he destroyed all the savings he had made over the years.
Vijaykumar’s wife Madhumitha told reporters she didn’t know her husband was addicted to online gambling. “Even a few hours before taking the extreme step, he had called his friends and asked them for a lakh of rupees, thinking he could invest it in the game and recover the amount lost. He had told me that he had lost some amount in the online gambling, but it was only after listening to the audio that I learned that he had lost over 30 lakh rupees. At first he told me he was playing for fun as there is no business due to Covid-19 and that will help him with small expenses. I believed it, but now I lost it. With folded hands, I beg everyone not to fall into this trap and lose their lives, ”she said.
With the death of Vijaykumar, demand for a ban on online gaming has grown. Pondicherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy told reporters on Wednesday he wrote a letter to Minister of Information and Broadcasting Ravi Shankar Prasad to ban online rummy and other gaming platforms silver. He said the government would seek to ban these apps soon.
DMK MP Dr Senthilkumar also wrote a letter to the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, claiming that many young people are losing money and risking their savings and their lives playing these games.
Why there is a demand to ban online gaming
“Addiction to online games has a severe impact on the physical and psychological health of people, it has important implications for the health of those who play online games. Online games lead to reduced motivation, emotional suppression, stress trauma, poor mental health, relationship problems, social disconnection, and other health risks. Mainly due to the current foreclosure period, people have become addicted to online games (rummy), online gambling, which has resulted in many losing their hard earned money and facing financial health issues. and mental, ”he wrote.
Speaking to Indianexpress.com, Dr C. Pannerselvam, a psychiatrist at the Sneha Mindcare Center in Tirunelveli, said online gambling is a threat to society and a complete ban is needed.
“There is no question that these games should be banned. Real money games are addictive in nature. It is simply gambling, there is no skill involved as described. People try them for fun and get addicted. It’s similar to alcoholism or drug addiction. We are fighting for a blanket ban on alcohol and this is no exception, “said the psychiatrist.
Being confined to the house during the lockdown has intensified the problem of online gaming addiction, especially among people between the ages of 25 and 45, according to Dr Pannerselvam.
“They say they are unable to get out of this online game. They have problems with their families, they cannot concentrate on their work or their studies, ”he explained. “I tell my patients to stay away from the Internet or only use it when they are around family members. Loneliness will arouse hunger to play these games more. Family members should also care for them with patience and make them understand how this affects their health. There should be more awareness, the government should take initiatives.
How online games became popular
Internet gaming has grown in popularity in India over the years. Real money games such as rummy, poker, quizzes, and fantasy prediction have all gained millions of users every day. The advertising and endorsement of online games by famous sports figures and movie stars is massively influencing young people. These games, which were previously only popular in metropolitan cities, are now available to users even in villages across the country due to the availability of smartphones and cheap internet facilities.
Based on user behavior, advertisements for online games continue to appear on the timeline of a user’s social media accounts, prompting them to click through to the website.
A month ago, a 12-year-old boy from the town of Melakidaram, near Madurai, reportedly spent Rs 90,000 using his mother’s debit card to pay for online gaming portals. According to media reports, the boy deleted the transaction messages from his mother’s phone and the parents only found out later after checking their bank statements.
There are many channels on YouTube that teach beginners how to play these games. Content creators trick users into believing that they can make a lot of money playing these games.
On a few occasions, the creators of the channel even play the game on the accounts of their subscribers. Subscribers will be prompted to add money to their online game account and send their username and password to the creator. The creator will then play the game for them and if he wins, he will take a certain sum as a share.
Several scam gambling websites have also sprung up during the lockdown period, promising people big returns for small investments.
The advertisements of these gaming sites are available in all regional languages to target different sectors of the country.
The modus operandi of these games
On condition of anonymity, a technician from Chennai who played these games and lost over ten lakh rupees explained the modus operandi of these games.
“Those websites that initially look like legitimate watch or clothing websites take the user to a prediction game page after registration. The user has to predict the color and the number to earn more money. User needs to enter cell phone number and debit card details to add money to wallet in order to play the game. Most importantly, these websites will not show up in Google search. If one is to play these games, they have to download the application using the specific url. These games are promoted on various social media channels like YouTube and Facebook, ”he explained.
He said that users are then added to a WhatsApp or Telegram group where they will be encouraged to add additional members (their friends or colleagues), under the guise of a referral bonus. But if they fail to add new members, they are removed from the group.
I learned this from my neighbor who played this game with his friends. Every day he was investing 100 rupees and earning 200 or 300, that made me install this game. After investing 500 a day, I started investing 50,000 to 1 lakh in search of more money. It became an instant addiction. The teacher’s predictions started to go wrong and I started to lose money. There will be almost 1000 members in a Telegram group because all of them started to lose money, they started questioning the teacher and other administrators, ”he said.
“After a few days the application became inaccessible, those who invested their money could not withdraw it, the teacher and a few other administrators in the group said that there was a technical problem and that it would be People believed them. But after a few days the group became inactive. Later when I did some research, I found out that their names, their profile pictures, everything was wrong. has no evidence that we can make a complaint regarding these games since we have nothing like receipts for these, this will not show on our bank statements. I have uninstalled all of these online games, now I am warning my friends and colleagues not to fall into this trap and waste their hard earned money, ”he said.
State helpline: 104
Sneha Suicide Prevention Hotline: 044 24640050