A year after total prohibition was imposed in Bihar, there is growing realisation that women’s self-help groups (SHGs) formed under the World Bank-aided Bihar Rural Livelihoods Project (BRLP), also known as Jeevika, played a crucial role in the success of the liquor ban.
Jeevika has been promoted by the Bihar government through the Bihar Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society (BRLPS), an autonomous body under the Rural Development Department, with the objective of social and economic empowerment of the rural poor.
Even before total prohibition was imposed on April 5 last year, women volunteers of Jeevika succeeded in getting four villages, including Kalyanbigha (native village of chief minister Nitish Kumar) and Khaje Etwarsarai, declared liquor free to claim a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh each, for their relentless drive for achieving the feat.
It was never easy. Those involved in the lower rungs of the illicit brewing and trade of liquor tried to latch on to their only means of making a living. So, the Nalanda district administration rolled out an ambitious programme - parivartan (change) - to migrate them to a more dignified, if not equally remunerative, means of livelihood.
The initiative aimed to link these elements with district industry centre, khadi gram udyog, MNREGA, skill development schemes for providing alternative self employment avenues, and Jeevika, whose members had prompted the CM to take up prohibition at a function on July 9, 2015.
The last one has proved to be a game changer.
With 23,900 women SHGs, having 2.83 lakh members, it proved to be a real help in identifying and motivating such elements to change track. “We have been able to record the migration of nearly 200 families to new livelihood means, with Jeevika’s moral and financial assistance system,” said Nalanda district magistrate Thiyagrajan SM.
The list of those who have shunned the illegal liquor trade is long. But the examples of physically challenged father of five children Sanjay Paswan (50) of Biharsharif (Muraura) and father of seven kids Yogendra Ravidas (58), of Bhui Bazar, stand out.
Both, also addicts, knew nothing else. Now, they thank their better halves Kiran and Geeta, who not only managed financial support of Rs 30,000 from Jeevika but also extend a helping hand in growing vegetables on shared land and selling the produce.
An estimated Rs 2 crore has been provided by Jeevika SHGs to the female members of such families to help them in finding alternative livelihood means. Ravidas, now, has plans to open a small cloth shop at Bhui Bazaar, to be able to provide more for his children.
Similarly, Chote Choudhary, 54, of Andhanna village in Noorsarai block, a toddy seller and a father of six children, is a reformed man after undergoing treatment at the de-addiction centre, Biharsharif. His wife Rita Devi managed to get a loan for running a small ‘sattu’ (gram flour) shop. The money is not much, but the family is happy.
So is the case with Pankaj Choudhary, 45, a labourer, who gravitated to selling liquor for easy money. Now, the Hargawan resident runs a ‘tea and samosa’ shop from his home with his wife Abha. Nagarnausa resident Lalit Prasad has taken to selling coal, which, he says, is not as black as his previous ‘business’.
Several of the well heeled erstwhile licensed liquor vend owners - Arun Kumar (Harnaut), Deepu Kumar (Rupaspur), Ramakant Prasad and Pankaj Kumar (both Biharsharif) - have opened a two wheeler showroom, marriage hall, market complex and a dairy business, respectively.
Other parameters are positive, too.
“Incidents of murder, loot, rioting, atrocities against SC/ST and women, accidents and deaths have registered a fall of 41, 33, 22, 32 and 17, 19 and 14 per cent, respectively. Besides, 660 persons have been nabbed in 474 cases and 15,225 litres of liquor, including 9,379 litres of IMFL, have been recovered during the last one year,” said superintendent of police Kumar Ashish.