The deadly brew
Thirty-eight year old Neena Kumari has already experienced life more than what a women of her age usually does. She is a widow, a mother to six, works as a maid in several houses to make the ends meet. Her entire family lives in a single dilapidated room with an old colour television, a broken fan, three cots, two quilts, two rectangular steel storage boxes, few clothes and an old bicycle of her deceased husband as their only wealth.
Days were not very different a year ago when her husband, Baldev Raj, was still alive. A barber by profession, Balraj was an alcoholic undergoing the treatment as his health was completely ruined by over consumption of alcohol. Neena, for his treatment, sold the only four Kanals of land they had possessed and invested every single effort to save his life but nothing could change her misfortune as Balraj died leaving her alone with the responsibility of their four daughters and two sons.
Residing in Pandori Village in Bishnah Tehsil barely twenty kilometres from the winter capital of the much highlighted Northern Indian state Jammu and Kashmir, Neena and her children are not the only victims of alcoholism. The entire tehsil is facing its consequences as many have died across villages due to excessive liquor consumption.
Septuagenarian Kaushala Devi of village Chak Hasal who had also lost her elder son Shri Niwas (42) last year regrets his demise as she tried her best to persuadehimto leave drinking but in vain. After being witnessto the death of her elder son, she is now worried about her younger son Prem Nath (38) who too is tied up by the same habit unmoved by death of his elder brother.
"Khud to chale jate hain, maa reh jati hai", said choked Kaushala Devi, who held her society responsible for the growing menace of liquor consumption.Kaushala Devi, in all ways, is correct in blaming the society as this tehsil has been notorious for the production of illicit liquor for several decades now.
According to Kewal Krishan (27), whose father had also become victim of liquor consumption,majority of families are low caste and have very weak economy. To support their families young boys drop out of their schools and start working in industries. Soon after attaining economic independence, they start consuming liquor which is being produced in several villages and is easily available at cheap rates.
"Initially they start consuming alcohol for fun or to experiment but when fun becomes addiction even the youngsters don't realise," says Kewal.
Makhanpur, Deoli, Laswara, Chak Avtara, Kheri, Krel Brahmana, Chak Hasal, Shekhpur, Ala, Nandpur Tibba, Bullende Kothe are among the villages, which are infamous for production and sale of illicit liquor production.
Avinash Bhagat, a local journalist, says that out of total population of one lakh six thousand, seventy six thousands are schedule castes with little or no land surviving in extremely poor conditions. Poverty leads the youth of these low caste families towards search of employment during teens.
He further added that a huge chunk of village youth are employed in industries and have been indulging in liquor addiction.
"In every village of Bishnah, there are 10-20 people, who have died of liquor consumption," he said, adding that a liquor addict hardly crosses the age of 50.
Former Superintendent of Police, Shailender Singh, who has had invested lot of hard work in eradicating the menace and had achieved great success during his three years' tenure, says that a particular community Sansian are the main producers of illicit liquor in the tehsil as a large chunk of their population resides in Bishnah.
"The Sansian community is boycotted from the society as they are considered untouchables. Despite being extremely poor, they have no BPL cards or any other support from the Government. After working for three years to stop them from producing illicit liquor, it has come to fore that the only reason forcing them to get indulged into this illegal task is their socio economic."
According to him, the only way to stop the illicit liquor production, this community should be included in the society thus taking a step towards fighting the concept of untouchability. They should be rehabilitated in a proper manner so that they would not return to liquor production for the survival of their families.
(Posted on 18-03-2014)