Ten-year-old Vikas Solanki dislikes anyone who talks about liquor and starts crying if you ask him how his parents died.
His mother, father and uncle died in last two years due to “jalandar”, a local name for liver cirrhosis. Vikas lives with his bua (paternal aunt).
He is not the only one. About a dozen children have been orphaned in this village of Teekhi Imli that is inhabited mostly by Dalit families, about five km from Alirajpur district headquarters in Madhya Pradesh.
Villagers say more than 150 people have died due to liver cirrhosis but the deaths haven’t altered the alcohol consuming habit of local residents.
“We are maintaining a register of deaths since 1994 and since then about 150 have died. The reason is country liquor made by the tribals and consumed by us,” said Suresh Solanki, a resident of the village.
A government officer said the demand for country-made liquor went up in the last three decades. This made the tribals ferment “Mahua” for liquor with the help of urea, which led to the deaths in the village. “This village is affected the worst because it is on the Indore-Baroda highway and tribals sell liquor in the village,” said the officer.
But despite the spate of deaths, the villagers have not stopped consuming the liquor and about a half a dozen are on their deathbeds. “ Sasti hai aur araam se mil jaatee hai isliye chhoti nahi hai (It’s cheap and we easily get it, so we don’t leave the habit),” said Kishore , who is suffering from liver cirrhosis. He is undergoing treatment in Baroda.
News of the deaths has spread and the village is now infamous in the region due to the consumption of liquor.
“If a person dies in this village from any reason, even in an accident, people claim that it ‘liquor death”. About hundred people never consume liquor and are creating awareness but we are suffering,” said Azaad Solank (32), a resident of the village.
“I as a resident of the village is categorised as alcoholic everywhere though I had quit and working for the betterment of village.”
Solanki said the excise department raids many times to stop the tribals from selling liquor but have been unsuccessful. “No one from us can protest against the tribals selling liquor because they are brutal,” he added.
Alirajpur district magistrate Shekhar Verma said the government initiated awareness campaigns in all villages in the district to contain liquor consumption, with positive results.
“We will give better treatment to the people who are suffering from liver disease. District administrations along with other organisations are deeply concerned with this problem and we making all attempts to contain it,” he said.