| Women raid a hooch shop at Khabra village in Muzaffarpur on Wednesday. Picture by Gopi Raman |
The offensive against hooch and toddy launched by women in several villages of Muzaffarpur has attracted official support with the district magistrate asking the administrative and police personnel to check the illegal liquor trade.
Members of self-help groups like Jivika, Mahila Samakhiya and Nasha Mukti Andolan, affiliated to the state women development corporation, recently begun to raid outlets in the villages where illegal liquor is sold.
They busted outlets in Madhol, Mushahri, Janta, Kanta, Janta, Marwan and Patahi and handed over the sellers of spurious alcohol to the police.
“Illegal wine and liquor was being sold openly in these villages. One could buy a pouch for barely Rs 6. The men in the villages would consume the alcohol and often fall ill,” said Jivika convener Kumari Sunita.
She added: “Drunken men also beat up their wives and children. At times, they try to outrage the modesty of women on village roads.”
Several officials responsible for checking brewing and consumption of illegal liquor were found hand-in-glove with the mafia and refused to help the women when they lodged complaints with local police or administrative officials, alleged Sunita’s colleague and Jivika community mobiliser Neetu Devi
“We were forced to take matters into our hands, as the police and the excise departments were not co-operating with us,” she said.
The campaign of the women has got a pat from district magistrate Santosh Kumar Mall.
“Women in villages are the worst victims of illegal liquor trade,” Mall told The Telegraph. He added: “Their husbands often get addicted to hooch or toddy and fall ill. As these men are the only bread-earners of their respective families, their spouses and children suffer when they cannot work. The initiative taken by the women has helped check the problems to some exient.”
The district magistrate has asked excise department superintendent Ganesh Kumar to crack the whip on people selling illegal liquor.
Ganesh said: “We are following the directive of the district magistrate and conducting raids in various parts of the district.”
He added: “The excise department officials have been asked to act upon the suggestions of the women whenever they expose the sale of illegal liquor. The initiative of these women is an eye opener for the excise department. We welcome what they are doing. It has also forced the administrative officials and the police to act on the problem.”
The police have actually taken a leaf out of the women’s book in their campaign against hooch and toddy.
Muzaffarpur senior superintendent of police Rajesh Kumar said: “I have issued directives to all the police stations to lodge FIRs against sellers and manufacturers of illegal liquor. Persons associated with the illegal trade will be arrested.”
Three FIRs have been lodged over the past three days at Sadar, Gaighat and Mushahri police stations on the basis of raids conducted by the women’s groups.
District magistrate Mall added: “The only one thing we are concerned about is that these women do not take the law in their hands”
He has also warned the excise department and the police that they would be held accountable if the rural women found sellers of illegal liquor in their areas.