Date: 8/1/2004


.................Sunday August 1, 11:55 AM

......Liquor addiction grows among Chhattisgarh women

...........By Sujeet Kumar, Indo-Asian News Service


[CONGRESS GOONDA RAJ, LEGACY OF BOFORS CHOR: Make money, exploit the innocent. impoverish the nation, MAKE THE NATION READY FOR CONVERSION.]

Raipur, Aug 1 (IANS) Young mothers and their children in villages near this Chhattisgarh capital are getting addicted to "juicy" little pouches of country-made liquor.

Sold at the throwaway price of 50 paise a packet at Dharsiwa, about 50 km from here, the pouches have men, women and even small children queuing up at local tea shops for their daily "tasty" drink.

In India, selling liquor to minors is prohibited by law.

Some young women in Dharsiwa have grown so fond of the pouches that they do not mind trekking three to four km late at night to the next village in case their local shops run out of stocks.

"It is juicy and a little tasty," 24-year-old Lolly, a resident of Tilda Newra village told IANS.

"It helps us get a sound sleep, though we wake up in the morning feeling lazy with a slight body ache. But we like it."

Lolly said she could not do without her daily dose of liquor. So, every night along with her two children, Birju (six) and Sunita (five), Lolly waits for her husband to get the "dream gift".

And this is not the story of a single family. In other villages like Tekari Mandhar, Giraud, Baroda, Dhaneli, Ninua and Barsarda it is the same story.

Raju, a teashop owner of Dhaneli village, is a happy man. Business is brisk.

"I sell over 80-100 pouches daily. My commission is just 10 paise. But my income is more when I keep some of the stocks for late night distribution. Then it goes for Rs.2 to Rs.5 a pouch," he said.

Mewa, a provision shop owner in Ninua village, 40 km from Raipur, is the local distributor.

"I sell salt packets at Rs.3 a kg and liquor pouches for 50 paise. The locals are addicted to it. They enjoy it and I enjoy my income," he said.

The local legislator, Devji Patel, a senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader, is aware of the craze for liquor pouches in his constituency.

"Each and every village in my segment has become a market for liquor pouches. The most painful fact is that liquor barons have made the kids their targets," he said.

"I have taken up the matter with Chief Minister Raman Singh and he has issued orders for cracking down on culprits. But business is picking up day by day."

According to Patel, the mushrooming of liquor shops is because of the high bidding. Though the allotment is for one year, bids for permits to sell liquor go up to as much as Rs.10 million. The owners then try to recover costs and make profits by opening counters at tea shops to sell the liquor.

Patel promised to involve the locals in a movement against liquor addiction.

"It is a very serious matter," said Raipur collector R.P. Mandal. "I have asked the district excise officer to visit the area. No one will be allowed to boost their liquor business at the cost of minors and innocents."