Shame them and treat them with a ‘stinging plant’ if they ever touch alcohol again, is an Uttarakhand village’s recent way to save families from multiple fall outs of liquor addiction.
It may look like a Khap-pish approach but the 10-member anti-alcohol committee of Kanwa village in Uttarakashi, about 180 kilometres from Dehradun, feels this is the only way to save families of a liquor-addicted earning member from financial ruins—and it’s working, committee members said.
The committee was formed last month by family members who had witnessed how liquor addiction destroyed their peace of mind, household unity and financial stability.
But what’s ‘stinging plant’ punishment? Puran Singh Rana, head of the anti-alcoholism committee, said the particular plant is locally called kandaali (Utrica dioica), which has bristles that leave a tingling inflammation and pain when somebody is lashed with it. Rana said after striking an addict with this plant, he is locked up in a cowshed without food for a full day. “If that does not work, we carry out complete social boycott of the person till he mends his way,” Rana said.
So far, around seven persons have been given the stinging stick and shame in public while a dozen others have been handed out warnings, Rana said, who works as a para-teacher (appointed on a contract basis) in nearby Badethi village. “School children have also been urged to report cases of alcoholism in their families,” he said. At least three of the persons have not touched liquor over the last three weeks, committee members said.
Committee general secretary and village health worker Sumitra Rana said that many alcoholics thrashed their wives when they’re drunk. “Through the campaign, we want to make our village alcohol-free. We also want our women to speak out against their husbands who squander all the family income in drinking and beat them up after consuming alcohol,” she said.
Prakash Singh (name changed), a local contractor and ‘sting victim’ said that he hadn’t touched the liquor ever since he was caught by the committee lying drunk in a nearby agricultural field. “I’m trying to quit it for good,” he said.
Alcoholism is a social problem in Uttarakhand, which has over the years witnessed many anti-liquor movements led by womenfolk. Many villages across the state have been coming out strongly against the social malaise off late.
For instance, Naicholi village in Tehri district hosted its first liquor-free wedding earlier this month. At Lasyal, another village in district Tehri, alcohol has not been served in any wedding since the past 2009.
“We hope that the growing awareness envelops the entire state with liquor becoming a thing of the past in Uttarakhand,” said social activist Bhushan Negi.
Nevertheless, liquor is a major revenue source for state. In the current financial year, government has set Rs 1400 crore target for the trade.