Saturday, July 02, 2016

Following Gujarat model? Nitish Kumar, Medha Patkar pledge to campaign for prohibition, a "British" legacy

By Our Representative
Several civil and human rights organizations have come together to support a Gujarat model allegedly floated ever since the state was founded, 1960 – prohibition. Forming Nasha Mukt Bharat Andolan in order “pledge” to make a society drugs and liquor free, delegates from 15 states participated at a well-attended meeting in Delhi to chalk out an action programme.
Led by well-known social activist Medha Patkar, and held under the auspices of National Alliance People’s Movements (NAPM), the meet was blessed by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who recently imposed prohibition in Bihar. Earlier, Kerala’s now defeated UPA government imposed prohibition, allegedly in order to garner electoral support.
Kumar claimed prohibition has had “positive people’s response” with a “huge reduction in criminal activities”, and promising the NAPM – an apex body of tens of people’s organizations – that he would “join the movement not as chief minister but as a member and activist for the cause.”
The meet comes amidst new facts having coming to light (click HERE) suggesting that, as against the general view that prohibition is a Gandhian legacy, it was in fact imposed by the British in 1888 in areas now forming Gujarat.
A Gujarat-based sociologist Prof Vidyut Joshi’s two-part study on the impact of prohibition in Surat’s rural and urban areas has been cited to say that going tipsy in the South Gujarat region once was historically a way of life, a part of culture, which shouldn’t have been abandoned.
Prof Joshi told Counterview, “More as a desire to control the liquor market, the British allowed only that liquor to be sold which was manufactured by the government. It gave license to sell liquor to those whom it trusted, many of whom happened to be Parsis. Descendants of those who had these licenses have surnames like Batliwala, Daruwala, Tadiwala.”
Prof Vidyut Joshi
He further said, “Before this happened, the tribals in South Gujarat were used to drinking mahua, extracted from flowers of mahua trees, found aplenty in eastern hilly region of Gujarat. They would mix mahua in chapati and sweets. Mahua flowers would be used to incense water. Tribals formed 50 per cent of the South Gujarat population.”
“Similarly”, he said, “Tadi was extracted from palm trees along the sea shore, where 15 to 20 per cent of of the South Gujarat population lived. They are mainly fisherfolk – Khervas, Machchis, Tandels, Naviks and Kolis. Fishermen would have to remain in the sea for several days, often weeks, and tadi used to be their only pastime during the highly unorganized life they lived.”
Pointing out that following the British control on alcohol, illicit liquor replaced Gujarat’s rural and urban areas, Prof Joshi said, during the British says, “Slurry would arrive from sugar mills in far off Uttar Pradesh in railway wagons. It was needed for quick fermentation. Similarly, the denatured spirit used in dyes in cotton mills began being used to make hooch.”
Today, there is “no change” in the situation, with “poor people consuming illicit liquor in order to release tension and dying in tragedies after consuming its poisonous content”, he added.
However, Patkar insisted at the Delhi meet that prohibition should be imposed, coining a new slogan, ‘Paani Chahiye, Sharab Nahi’, referring to how people are being deprived of Narmada waters because of the diversion of the Narmada dam waters to rich farmers and industrialists.
Speakers at the meet – in which delegates from Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi, Odisha, Gujarat, Tamilnadu, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Karnataka, and Kerala participated – insisted that women, children and society in general have “suffered”, impacting the “overall development of society” because of the liquor menace.
The meet claimed that the liquor lobby and drug dealers’ lobby is being “protected” by various governments, and revenue loss is cited as the reason. In Uttarakhand, liquor is feely available, evidently to “please” tourists, but local demand for prohibition has been ignored.
“Police in Maharashtra have filed cases against the protesters rather than acting against liquor mafias”, speakers said, adding, in Rajasthan, the government bowed down to “liquor mafia and removed prohibition which was imposed in 1980 follows a 12 year struggle.”
“More than 5,000 people have died and 25 lakhs people have destroyed their life socially, economically, and due to impact on health. People suffer a loss of revenue 100 times the revenue earned by government”, speakers said.

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