Fifty years ago, Malayalam comedian Adoor Bhasi sang that “oru roopa nottukoduthal oru laksham koodepporum” (if you spend one rupee you will get a lakh rupees). The song in the film, Lottery Ticket, was a celebration of the idea of lottery ticket, a paper lottery the government of Kerala had launched in 1967. The song goes on to impress prospective buyers of the riches a lottery ticket can fetch — the list includes a pretty bride, a fancy car and even ministership. For Rajan Perunnon, a daily wager from an adivasi community in Kerala, the lottery ticket has turned out to be precisely that slice of luck Bhasi promised it would be. One Monday, Perunnon, whose house was on the verge of being attached by a bank for loan default, hit the jackpot: The Rs 300 Christmas-New Year Bumper lottery ticket he had bought some days ago fetched him a prize money of Rs 12 crore. After deductions, Perunnon will get Rs 7.2 crore, enough to repay his loan and buy or build a few more houses.
For thousands of people in Kerala and elsewhere, hope is the many digit number printed on the colourful lottery tickets. Week after week, they trust in the ticket to ride out of misery and misfortune. They rue their luck when they miss out on the winning sequence, but continue to invest in the ticket. Who knows what fate holds for you. Ask Mofijul Rahima Sheikh, a Bengali labourer who was working at a construction firm in Kozhikode, when he landed a lottery prize of Rs 1 crore some years ago!
For the state government too, the lottery has been a worthy investment. In 2018-19, lottery sales in Kerala amounted to Rs 9,264.55 crore and post all expenses — prize money and agent commissions — the treasury was richer by Rs 1,673 crore. Over a lakh people make a life selling these tickets that are priced in the range of Rs 30 to Rs 300. Some years ago, the state government gambled on an exclusive lottery to fund a marquee healthcare scheme. The Karunya Healthcare Scheme, which benefits 55 lakh people annually and costs Rs 700 crore, is now funded by the proceeds from the Karunya lottery. So, as Bhasi sang, “varuvin ningal varuvin” (come, join the queue).
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