The women of Kacchabalee, a small village in Rajasthan’s Rajsamand district, successfully led a campaign to shut down the liquor shops in the village, prevailing upon the administration to hold a referendum on the issue.
The poll which was conducted by the district administration on Tuesday, asked voters to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the liquor shop. An overwhelming majority of 94 per cent of the 2039 villagers who cast their votes said ‘No’. Under local excise laws, 51 per cent of the votes are sufficient to ban liquor in an area.
On the January 26, during the Republic Day celebrations, Sita Devi moved a resolution before the sarpanch (village chief) and other community leaders.
“We asked for a ban on the sale of liquor in our village,” she says. “We were fed up, over the years, of people had died of alcoholism. Women had become widows, left with little children to care of. In many families, women were the victims — being beaten by their drunk husbands.”
Other women soon joined her and put their signatures or thumb impressions on the resolution.
“When a man drinks, a woman is left to fend for the family. She works and struggles, earns Rs 100 and when she comes home he snatches that away to buy liquor,” says Khimi Devi.
Not only was alcoholism destroying hard-earned savings in this village where people are mainly daily wage earners, but also led to deaths. Villagers say, in the past five years, 84 people had died of various causes including accidents caused after drinking and driving. Many of them were young men, who left behind widows with small children to fend for.
Gattu Devi’s husband died five years ago. Excessive drinking led to liver failure. She spent over two lakhs on his treatment and says she is still repaying the debt.
“My life has been an endless round of struggle, earning and spending on my husband’s medical treatment… Sometimes I don’t know how to make ends meet, repay debts, feed myself or the children,” she says.
After collecting more than 1,500 signatures, the women went to the district collector asking to ban the sale of alcohol. The collector took up the appeal with the excise department and then ordered a poll on it.
“The way a panchayat election is held, that’s exactly the procedure that has been followed here and with full transparency,” says Narendra Kumar Jain, sub divisional magistrate of Bhim tehsil. And, the election voted out the liquor vends.