Anti-liquor protests continue in the hillsdehradun Updated: Jul 04, 2017 20:55 IST
Women are spearheading the anti-liquor protests across the state.(HT Photo)
DEHRADUN: Every day around 8 in the morning, a group of protesters gather at Karnprayag, some 215 km from here, to chalk out a plan for ensuring that no new liquor shop comes up in the town. It has been more than two months, and the protestors show no sign of softening their stand.
“We didn’t let open three shops so far. The excise department is trying again and we will not let them do that,” says Indresh Maikhuri, a Leftist leader who is spearheading the anti-liquor movement since April in Chamoli’s Karnprayag. The pack of protesters are mostly women who complain they are affected by drinking habit of menfolk.
It is not Karnaprayag alone. The anti-liquor protests are going on in other parts of Garhwal, Kumaon and Dehradun as well.
Excise minister Prakash Pant claims most of the protests in the hills are the handiwork of smugglers. “Some protests are genuine but most are instigated by those who weren’t allotted shops or by smugglers whose business will be affected due to opening of government shops,” the minister tells Hindustan Times.
He adds that out of 206 shops, 12 could not be opened so far due to protests and the government is selling liquor through mobile vans in such areas. “It’s a wrong perception that we are for mobile liquor shops. It’s just a temporary arrangement,” Pant asserts.
Liquor has always remained a contentious issue in the hills even when Uttarakhand was part of Uttar Pradesh. After Uttarakhand’s creation in 2000, the Nityanand Swami government made some changes in excise policy but sidelined the demand of a blanket ban. Successive governments continued with liquor business as it fetches handsome revenue for the cash-strapped state.
Interestingly, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress have no clear policy about liquor business. The BJP raised a voice when it was in opposition and the Congress, which promoted excise sales, is now against it. Netizens took a jibe at former chief minister Harish Rawat for joining protesters in Dehradun. Rawat’s son is at the forefront in Kumaon region against mobile vans selling booze. Ironically, one IAS official in Harish Rawat’s staff, when he was CM was caught on camera inking a deal with decoy liquor traders.
The present dispensation has set a target of Rs 2,300 crore from excise sales but it seems to be a far cry. This year, the anti-liquor protests have refused to die down despite the government announcing to allow shops operate for limited hours. A desperate government has asked district magistrates to ensure liquor shops are opened without any problem to ensure a steady flow of revenue. Police are deployed at liquor shops for security.
But the lines are drawn. “Come what may, we will not allow the sale of liquor,” contends Jayanti Rawat, who is protesting for more than 60 days in Chamoli.