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In ‘Baghi Ballia’, women uncork ire against liquor

‘Should there be a ban on the sale of liquor?’ asks activist Manju Rajbhar addressing a gathering of women in Bastaura village of Ballia.

lucknow Updated: May 19, 2018 14:29 IST
Sudhir Kumar
Sudhir Kumar
Hindustan Times, Ballia
Baghi Ballia,Liquor sale,Bihar
Women staging protest against sale of liquor in Bastaura village of Ballia.With the launch of anti-liquor campaign, Ballia has set the trend in the region.(HT Photo)

‘Should there be a ban on the sale of liquor?’ asks activist Manju Rajbhar addressing a gathering of women in Bastaura village of Ballia.

The women respond in the affirmative.

Manju is running a campaign in her village against alcoholism and is motivating other women to take up cudgels against the menace.

Like Manju, Kamleshwari Rajbhar, Geeta Rajbhar and Rajkumari Rajbhar are also running similar campaigns in their respective villages.

The four women have a number of things in common – all of them are homemaker-turned-crusaders against liquor, they come from villages in Ballia, the land of revolutionary Mangal Pandey, and are diehard supporters of the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP).

According to SBSP president OP Rajbhar, Ballia is the land of revolutionaries and is known as ‘Baghi Ballia’. “Therefore, the place is fit for the launch of such a campaign,” he says.

In Bastaura, Manju has been organising meetings with women of the families which bear the brunt of alcoholism.

“There should be a complete ban on liquor in UP as it has wreaked havoc in families which have habitual drinkers. In my village, male members in 50 per cent of the families are alcoholics,” Manju says.

“Most men come home in drunken state and beat up their wives if they speak up against their habit. Our campaign and unity has stopped violence against women. But those addicted to it still waste their hard-earned money on liquor,” she adds.

Ballia is the land of freedom fighter Mangal Pandey who was the first to raise his voice against the British, she says, adding that it was the beginning of the freedom movement which eventually drove them away from the country.

“Women have given a war cry against liquor and will continue our fight till the sale of liquor is banned,” Manju adds.

In Rajbhar-dominated Bastaura, 90 per cent villagers earn their livelihood working as labourers at brick kilns or mason. “They earn Rs 150-250 daily and spend around Rs 90 on liquor. At times, they spend Rs 100-150 and return home empty-handed,” she says.

Kiran Rajbhar, 20, who could not pursue graduation due to the financial problem in her family resulting from her father’s drinking habit, says: “I completed intermediate in 2016 and wanted to study further. I couldn’t do so as my mother is not able to afford the expenses and my father does not pay attention to our education.”

“Liquor is the root cause of many problems. It must be banned so that workers who are habitual drinkers stop wasting their hard-earned money on liquor and pay attention to their families,” Kiran says.

Kiran’s mother Lalsa Rajbhar says non-availability of liquor will force people quit drinking.

“I have heard from my relatives that liquor ban has brought tremendous change in the situation in Bihar,” Lalsa says.

Kamleshwari Rajbhar, who is mobilising women in her village Kotwari, says: “Women are the worst sufferers of drinking habits of their husbands. If we ask them not to drink, they hurl abuses and misbehave. They are not interested in enrolling children at schools and don’t care for their families.”

In Meeranganj village on the outskirts of Rasda town, Geeta Rajbhar leads unites women to press for liquor ban.

“Nothing is impossible. Our efforts will yield desired results. If women of Bihar can compel their government to impose a complete ban on liquor, why can’t women do the same in UP,” Geeta says.

Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, led by Omprakash Rajbhar, has been demanding a complete ban on liquor across the state.

The campaign has spread to villages in the adjoining Ghazipur district.

Following the instructions of the SBSP president, the party’s local unit leaders are supporting women campaigners.

“Alcoholism is a curse. Liquor has destroyed many families. A ban on its sale will compel people quit drinking,” Awadhesh Kumar Rajbhar, a local SBSP leader, says.

“If these daily wagers quit liquor, they can save some money and educate their children,” he adds.

Awadhesh also attends meetings organised by women and appeals to them to attend a massive meeting scheduled in Ballia on May 20 to demand ban on liquor.

First Published: May 19, 2018 14:29 IST