| Dhobi Tola resident Boma Yadav’s wife Shanti Devi (right) and mother mourn his death. Picture by Amit Kumar |
Consumption of hooch often claims several lives in the remote villages of Maoist-hit Jamui district, but many have started to manufacture the spurious liquor to support their livelihood.
Last month, four residents of Dhobi Tola in Jhajha block, around 210km south-east of Patna, died after consuming hooch. Between August 2 and 5, Boma Rajak, 31, whose only source of income was manufacturing hooch, died along with three of his clients.
His widow, Shanti Devi, and mother, Falia Devi, admitted that brewing and selling country liquor was the family’s only source of income. Boma used to brew country liquor in the courtyard for his clients, Shanti said.
Like Boma, many in Dhobi Tola, a Maoist hotbed, are engaged in the trade. Manufacturing country liquor has taken the proportion of a cottage industry for hundreds of people in several villages of Jhajha.
Sandeep Kumar Singh, a social worker in Simultala, said: “There is no scope for agriculture in the absence of irrigation sources. The villagers enjoy an easy flow of money from manufacturing hooch. In the tribal-dominated villages, consumption of country liquor is common.”
The villagers also supply hooch to the Maoists, cater to their fellow villagers and have a good market of their product in Deoghar and Giridih districts of Jharkhand.
Aun Bohra, another social worker in Jhajha, said: “When tragedies like the recent deaths are reported, the officials become serious and take action. But the situation soon reverts.”
Jahina Bibi, the widow of Mohammad Bhutta, said: “Around two years ago, my husband lost his job and started drinking country liquor. I sold off all my silver ornaments to treat him. But he died.” Arun Singh, in-charge, additional primary health centre, Simultala, admitted that Bhutta died because of his drinking habit, while excise superintendent (Jamui) Bom Bahadur Yadav claimed the victims had died of diarrhoea.