Rising against liquor

Published: Monday 31 May 1993

The people of Bhansoj, 50 km from the district headquarters town of Raipur in Madhya Pradesh, are up in arms against liquor, and achieving results. Until last year, Bhansoj was notorious for severe alcoholism, says S N Biswas, who owns the local dispensary. Recalls Biswas, "The whole atmosphere was spoiled. Daily fights, family problems, eve-teasing, thefts -- all took place because of excessive drinking. It was then that we decided to launch a mass movement." The conscientious villagers got together and formed the Daru Virodhi Samiti (Anti-Liquor Committee). Because of their efforts, Bhansoj is today the centre of an anti-alcohol movement throughout the Chattisgarh region.

The anti-liquor samiti arsenal includes vigilante squads and social boycott. However, despite villagers' protests, the state administration, operating by its own rules, recently auctioned the liquor vend in Bhansoj to Radhey Sham Jaiswal for Rs 5.8 lakh. The villagers not only prevented Jaiswal from entering Bhansoj, they also would not let him rent premises to open the shop. But six days later, on April 6, a dozen of Jaiswal's armed henchmen are said to have assaulted Rameshwar Bagal, the owner of the house where the previous shop was located, and forcibly established a liquor shop there once again.

The samiti and the villagers have filed a case in the Jabalpur bench of the High Court against Jaiswal and the state administration for forcible entry and for not taking the village panchayat into confidence before the auction.

District collector Devraj Virdhi, however, says in defence of the government, "The administration is supposed to implement government policies and all rules were adhered to."

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