In a shocking exposure of the truth behind the closed doors of video game parlours and cyber cafes in the city, local NGO Dnyandevi Childline has revealed that several such gaming centres use drugs, gambling and pornography to lure children. The revelation was made during a recent meeting between the NGO and the Pune Police Commissionerate, and both will now join hands to crack down on the racket that has mushroomed across the city.
It was a group of rehabilitated children in the Bal Sena wing of the NGO that exposed the various illicit activities at gaming parlours. According to them children are offered fruit juice and soft drinks laced with sedatives, and are encouraged to gamble as well as view pornography. The Bal Sena’s findings were also shared with the Social Security Cell of the Pune Crime Branch, and cops have now sought legal help to initiate action against the owners and managers of these parlours.
As per the city police records, there are 14 gaming parlours and 30 cyber cafes in the city that run gaming centres.
Anuradha Sahasrabuddhe, executive director of Dnyandevi said, “While interacting with our Bal Sena members, a 17-year-old boy told us that these days, teenagers are attracted to video game parlours. Initially, I thought that these children are drawn to violent games, but I was shocked when they told me that gambling also takes place there. To lure these children, some parlours give away prizes or soft drinks which have a ‘different taste’.”
One of the child members of Bal Sena told mid-day, “Most of these parlours are located near colleges or slum areas and away from police stations. The entry fees start from the range of Rs 30 per hour to Rs 1,000. Initially, children start with computer games and after reaching a certain level, they can earn cash rewards, and are also offered special soft drinks. The soft drink has a different taste than usual.” He added that children get addicted to the taste and also the way the drinks make them feel, and are further drawn in to indulge in other activities as well.
Shockingly, kids are not just rewarded with cash and drugs when they cross levels, but some parlours even reward them with sleazy images. And children eventually get addicted to the games and the lifestyle and sell their belongings to fund their addictions.
“In some gaming zones, pornographic images are displayed when one reaches certain levels of the game,” said the Bal Sena member, adding, “such rooms are dark with black glass, and there are even tables there where children play poker or casino games in the range of R500 to R1,000. Some of our friends are so addicted that they bunk their classes and even sold their books to scrap dealers to play these games.”
Inspector Sanjay Nikam, in charge of Social Security Cell of the city police said, “We have received the tip-off from members of the Bal Sena, and we have noted some such spots with their help. We are discussing our line of action with our seniors, and also taking legal assistance in this regard.”
Meanwhile, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials are also mulling over taking action against these parlour owners. FDA Assistant Commissioner Dileep Sangat said, “If such incidents are taking place, we will help the police raid the parlours. If we come to know about such spots, we will personally raid them under the provisions mentioned in the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954.”