The women are still kicked about the stupour over their maiden success to rid their villages of alcohol. And now, they want it as an election issue.
In 2007, a handful of women from various hamlets of Satara district, some 270 km from Mumbai, set into motion a unique campaign. Through a referendum by way of ballot, the women voted against more than 60 liquor shops being run in 30 villages. Buoyed by the success of their movement, these women now want to criteria to be modified in local politics. Under the aegis of a local organisation, Mahila Vikas Mandal, the women from around 30 villages of Satara are working hard to ensure that politicians do not woo local voters with the lure of the bottle.
“It’s not just a social but a political movement by women to combat vested interests,” says lawyer-turned-activist Varsha Deshpande who is associated with Mahila Vikas Aghadi. The organisation’s manifesto appeals to women voters to vote only for those candidates who do not consume alcohol and are not linked with liquor business. “Candidates who do not meet these criteria will not even be allowed to step into our villages,” said Deshpande.
Although barred under election code of conduct, politicians’ offering free liquor to voters during polls is a routine practice in rural pockets.
As per the rule, the district administration has to shut down liquor shops if over 50 per cent of women veto their existence. The state government’s amendment allowing voice vote instead of ballot has given he process a fillip. Also, Superintendent of Police (Satara district) Prakash Mutyal has offered all help to the village women.
For now, the movement has made inroads into neighbouring Kolhapur district where local organisations are trying to replicate the model. “Now we know the way to our destination…” said Parvati Barate, a resident of Shahuwadi village.