IN THIS era of women’s emancipation and entrepreneurship, in a twisted sort of way, another male bastion has been conquered by women – that of making and selling illicit country liquor.
In City’s outlying rural area at least most of the country liquor is being made by women, as evidenced by the predominance in the number of women who are caught selling this liquor.
Says an excise officer who did not wish to be quoted, “In some areas it is thriving like a cottage industry where the women make and sell the liquor in very small quantities. They earn anywhere between Rs 80 to Rs 100 per day which acts as a supplement to their income.”
Some even provide small-time snacks to go with the country liquor for the clients! For the excise department and for that matter, also the police, the pay off for conducting a raid in these areas of Niranjanpur, Rau, Khajrana (Balai Mohalla), Santer in Mhow, and Bhim Nagar in Rajendra Nagar among places, is not great.
The quantity of liquor that they seize is not big enough and often the women simply run away if they get the wind that police or excise officials are coming. Moreover, even arrested and are booked under the Excise Act, they are soon out paying a fine ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 1000 in court and back to business.
For the women it makes sound economic sense to make and sell country liquor. The investment is not big, they can stay at home and look after the children – the alternative is to work as daily wagers– and the product is not very difficult to make.
They usually need ‘mahua’, jaggery or anything that has high sugar content, a utensil to boil the mahua with water, another utensil of cold water through which vapour is passed and yet another utensil where the drops of liquor can be collected, poured into bottles and sold.
According to the records of the excise department, from April 2005 to March 2006 they caught 167 women for making/selling country liquor, and most of the women caught had been caught earlier on a number of occasions and categorized as ‘habitual’.
The cost of the liquor and other goods seized from them varied between Rs 500 to a maximum of Rs 1,500 – though in 90 per cent of the cases, the seizures were around Rs 500 only. Excise officials say that it is not as if men are not making liquor. But, in many cases, they get hold of the raw material, let their wives make it and sell it, while they look out for other jobs in the market.
“But this does not mean that we can allow them to do a flourishing business unhindered,” says an excise official. Apart from the fear that poisoned liquor might be served leading to deaths, these illegal dens often lead to law and order problems in the area while some are into other criminal activities also.
Not surprisingly, the excise department has got six women, who are habitual sellers and makers of illicit country liquor, externed from the district.