The demand for setting up a separate prohibition department to look after the anti-liquor activities in Uttarakhand has gained momentum ahead of the assembly session, scheduled at Gairsain in December.Activists from different parts of the state are set to hold a padyatra (foot march) from Nainital to Gairsain to press for the demand. “The rally will begin from the Lake City on November 21 and reach Gairsain on December 3 after covering a distance of more than 150 km over 12 days,” said activist Praveen Singh, convener of a campaign called ‘Right To Employment and Health’, under which the rally is being organised.In Uttarakhand, prohibition related activities were being looked after by the excise department after it was carved out of Uttar Pradesh in 2000. However, in 2006, the Uttarakhand government got the task merged with the social welfare department, which led to fizzling out of anti-liquor activities over the years, allege activists. “Lack of employment opportunities among other reasons is dragging youngsters towards alcoholism, which is known to have destroyed the lives of countless families in the hills. A dedicated prohibition department needs to be set up urgently, which can hold, regulate and monitor the anti-liquor activities effectively,” said Singh. The activists are also planning to hold an indefinite hunger strike if the state government does not take action on their demand before beginning of the assembly session. Alcoholism is considered a serious social problem in Uttarakhand, which has witnessed many anti-liquor movements, especially by the womenfolk, over the years. Successive governments, however, have kept away from the issue of banning liquor in the state, calling it inevitable for supporting the young state’s financial health. After its creation in 2000, Uttarakhand had set a revenue target of ₹250 crore from liquor business, which shot up to ₹1,700 crore in 2015-16. The BJP government, which took over the reins of Uttarakhand in March this year, further increased the excise target from ₹1,905 crore achieved in 2016-17 to ₹2,310 crore for the current fiscal (2017-18). Activists believe that a blanket ban on liquor – like in Bihar and Gujarat – could lead to further black marketing and smuggling of alcohol. “So, it is necessary to have a regulatory body to discourage alcohol usage,” said activist Ram Krishna Tiwari, 75, adding that the body should actively sensitise youngsters about the health, financial and social losses caused by alcoholism.When contacted over the issue, excise minister Prakash Pant said that the government was open to considering the demand. “We will get the demand (for setting up prohibition department) reviewed and see what can be done on this front to carry out sensitisation activities,” Pant told HT.