Goa Catholic priest opposes offshore casinos near village
Panaji: A local Roman Catholic priest Tuesday opposed the Goa government's controversial move to relocate offshore casinos, presently anchored in the Mandovi river off here, further inland.
Fr Alcandro Rodrigues, the parish priest of Ribandar -- a sleepy fishing village near Panaji -- who is in the forefront of the agitation, told reporters the state cabinet's decision to relocate three of the seven offshore casinos to the village was suspicious.
He added it would "disrupt the livelihood of fishermen eking out a living in the area".
Rodrigues, who is a part of a campaign 'United People of Ribandar', said the logic of having offshore casinos housed in boats parked in a river was absurd.
"These are 'offshore casinos'. By the very virtue of the title, they should be parked in the deep sea. Relocating them in the river next to Ribandar would not only destroy village fabric, but hamper the livelihood of fishermen," he said.
Rodrigues' anti-casino stance runs concurrent with that of the Roman Catholic Church of Goa which has very staunchly opposed the setting up of casinos in the state.
The Goa church, along with village civic rights groups, nearly two years ago forced the state Congress-led coalition government to shift an offshore casino vessel from the Sal river in South Goa, after undertaking a series of protests.
The offshore vessel owned by the Leela group of hotels was later shifted to the Mandovi river, which currently is home to seven casinos parked in close vicinity of one another.
"The decision of the state government to dock the casinos towards the Ribandar side is baffling," Rodrigues said, questioning the merit behind the state cabinet's decision last week to shuffle the positions of the casinos in the river Mandovi.
In the controversial cabinet meeting, the cabinet reversed its own decision taken last year, ordering the offshore casinos to the Arabian sea.
The opposition has said large kickbacks from the casino industry inspired the cabinet to reverse its order.