Imagine a city built on vices. Our own version of Las Vegas. Replete with gambling, drinking, drugs, prostitution, organized betting and crime, horse racing, easy marriages, and divorces; add any other vices that I might not be aware of. Would it be a dystopia or a utopia? I think –
· It would be uncompromising and extreme.
· It would be intrinsically groundbreaking and terrifically vicious.
· It would bring a shadowy world to vivid life.
What if it could contribute an additional 8-10% to India’s GDP in 10 years?
What is a Sin City, anyway?
Wikipedia says, “Sin City is an urban area (a city or part of) that caters to various vices. These vices may be legal or illegal depending on the area and its tolerance levels. Examples of vices include sex-related services (prostitution, strip clubs, sex shops, etc.), gambling (casinos, betting shops, etc.), or drug use, and even excessive organized crime and gang activity.
Though no longer existing, Berlin, Shanghai, and Chicago in the 1920s had their own areas that could be considered significant to the birth of this phenomenon. As of today, there are about 35 commonly agreed-upon Sin Cities in the world. Asia alone has nine. Would it baffle you if I said that Baku in Azerbaijan and Manama in Bahrain have their own versions as well? Well, it baffled me. The closest to the concept of a Sin City in India would be Goa. But I don’t think of Goa that way since it has a lot going for it apart from vices. In my opinion, it is many things to many people, therefore it cannot be labeled a Sin City. Also, the local government has been trying extremely hard to rid itself of such an image.
I’m talking about a city built from the ground up in a remote location that would be proud of its counterculture and sure of its purpose. More on that in a bit.
For the record, we will use the Big Daddy of them all – Las Vegas, as an example.
The direct visitor spending in 2019 and 2020 in Las Vegas generated revenues of $36.9 billion and $17.6 billion respectively (reduced drastically because of the pandemic). Let’s say that we make only half of what Las Vegas made in 2020 in the first year. That comes up to $8.8 billion. Around $2 billion less than the GDP of Goa in 2021. At an 8-10% estimated YoY growth, imagine the potential. (NOTE: Sindia will be a special administrative region with its own bylaws, governance and will be treated as jurisdictionally independent from the National Law for stated purposes)
I am aware that there will be a significant majority of detractors who will vociferously oppose this idea. Statements like “This will lead to even more human trafficking, create a new industry around narcotics, what if we become Detroit instead of Vegas, this will create even more unethical tax havens like the Cayman Islands, we can barely support our existing infrastructure – how can we even envision something at this scale?” are expected.
Well, all these are fair questions, and we can debate them if we reach a consensus in the first place.
Before that, we need to remove our blinders and stop pretending that things are under control because they are clearly not. We can police, govern, control as much as we want but people will always find a way. We cannot play anti-smoking ads in cinemas and sell cigarettes on the other hand. The same goes for surrogate advertising and online gambling. It just doesn’t work that way. There is no medicine for people whose vices have become habits. The thing is – Vices bring in billions of dollars to economies around the world and I will be the first one to forbid it as soon as you can name a virtue that brings in as much revenue.
Think about it.
Every day you hear about at least one instance of prostitution (legal in India, in case you didn’t realize), organized crime, money laundering, gambling, black money, drugs, smuggling, yes? At this rate, will we ever be able to fix anything? What would you rather choose – The uneven distribution of prosperity or the even distribution of misery? What if we capitalize on this “decadence” and “immorality” by localizing them to one place? A place where anyone can wallow in their vices and end up contributing to the economy. Within 10 years, we would have a legalized, self-sufficient, burgeoning parallel economy. It will bring in additional tourism, forex, and tremendous employment opportunities. We would still need to regulate it but let us shed our double standards first and leave politics out of this. For that would mean this endeavor would never take off. This is an economic decision. Not a personal or a political one.
If it were up to me, I would choose Little Andaman as the site for our Sin City. (After relocating the locals, of course)
It is around 707 sq. km (double the size of Vegas) and about 88km south of Port Blair. The flight time from Port Blair to Hut Bay is around 40 minutes and can be undertaken via a helicopter or a seaplane. It is also at a safe distance from the mainland to not disturb the fragile status quo and trouble the purists and the conservatives. This strategic location is close to Singapore, Macau, Bangkok, Manila, and Kuala Lumpur all of which have an already existing counterculture and an established clientele. Throw in our exotic heritage and colors for good measure and we have a swanky, new world-class attraction.
One thing I am sure of is that we Indians will flood the place first and, fast. Weddings, holidays, casinos, hotels, resorts, nightlife, businesses, conventions, amusement parks, stadiums, concerts, shopping, entertainment – what’s not to like?
Maybe we can give Goa a well-deserved break at least then.
https://bit.ly/3jbxw5G – About Las Vegas
https://bit.ly/2Xopuip – About Little Andaman