The call for a blanket ban on liquor in Rajasthan is gaining intensity after the death of an anti-liquor campaigner in the state and Bihar chief minister’s declaring his state dry from the next year.
Liquor is the root cause of dwindling household economy and domestic and social violence across the state as it is elsewhere.
To press for its ban, former Rajasthan lawmaker and social activist Gurusharan Chabbra had gone on a hunger strike since October 2 at Gandhi Circle in Jaipur. Earlier in July, he had written to chief minister Vasundhara Raje demanding a ban on liquor.
However, he died on November 3 at the Sawai Mansingh Hospital after a 32-day long stir. This became one of the causes of social organisations’ demand for a blanket ban on liquor in Rajasthan.
Lok Sangarsh Morcha secretary Sawai Singh said, “Prohibition on liquor will not only put a stop on the crime rate in the state, (but also help) save the money.”
“The state government should do it if it is serious about the welfare of the people. Chabbra ji’s sacrifice should not go in vain,” he said.
Gurusharan Chabbra daughters-in-law Pooja and Poonam have now decided to carry forward the anti-liquor crusade, Poonam said, “Even if the government cannot order a complete ban on liquor, then it should at least fulfil its promise that was made in the past.”
Many Muslim organisations, such as Jamat-e-Islami Hind, express their solidarity with the call for liquor ban in Rajasthan and hail Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s decision in this respect.
Jamat-e-Islami Hind Rajasthan secretary Mohammed Iqbal Siddiqui said that people’s health should be the top priority for any government than revenue. “Development with the liquor money is a shameful concept and Raje should put a ban on liquor,” he suggested.
Medha Patkar, an Indian social activist and social reformer, who was in Jaipur soon after Chhabra’s demise, had said that liquor mafia was gaining ground in Rajasthan and the Raje led government was completely blind to the plight of those who ruin their family and household economy after getting addicted to liquor, which is the biggest reason behind violence against women.
She had then demanded the Rajasthan government to ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol.
However, the state Congress believes stricter regulations about liquor are a better option than a blanket ban on the same.
Senior Congress leader Pratap Singh Khachariyawas said, “When Bhairav Singh Shekhawat banned alcohol, many people had then died of consuming adulterated liquor. Liquor ban needs discussion among political parties, activists and common citizens. But, if the BJP government calls for a ban on liquor then we have no objection.”
However, official sources said that a complete ban on liquor seemed unrealistic as liquor did fetch a lot of revenue through excise duty and create employment.
But, Sawai Singh of Lok Sangarsh Morcha believes that a consideration for revenue should be given a least priority in these matters.
“If a state like Bihar doesn’t need revenue from liquor then certainly Rajasthan doesn’t need to put the lives of its people at stake in the name of development from liquor money”, he said.
Alcohol consumer, on the other hand, have a different take on the same.
One Rahul Singh (name changed) said, “How can the state decide what I should eat or drink? We anyway pay humongous tax for alcohol in the name of excise duty that the government charges in the name of development. If there is a ban on liquor then automatically all that revenue will be generated from taxing other commodities that a non-drinker will also have to bear. Whosoever is against alcohol should ask him/herself that is he/she ready to pay double tax. “
“I think complete ban is not a solution. Yes, there is a constant fear of domestic violence in the rural regions due to alcohol. But it should be dealt in a different way,” he said.
However, activists hold on to the a written agreement between the state government and late Chabbra on liquor ban and plan to carry on the battle along the lines.