Odisha Village Bans Alcohol After Sexual Harassment Incident

Nuapada: The youth of Dharambandha village here have managed an achievement that not many can boast of. They have banned the buying and selling of alcohol with help from the Sarpanch.

The ban on alcohol seemed necessary considering people’s health was deteriorating due to excessive consumption. Most of the deaths in the village were due to alcohol. What is more, it was being sold in the streets, and the villagers had started depleting their savings to buy it. Cases of atrocities on women and domestic violence had also increased. Even the village children started drinking alcohol with the money they got for buying goodies.

However, what spurred the youth into taking action was an incident in mid-September this year. A group of women from the village went for a bath in the village canal where a nearby shop was serving and selling liquor to some men. Soon, these men began to molest the women. When the women protested, the drunkards started abusing them.

No official complaint was registered with the police but the village youth decided to eradicate this problem from its roots and started an alcohol de-addiction campaign in Dharambandha.

They approached the village Sarpanch who called a gram sabha meeting, where a decision to prohibit liquor in the village was passed with mutual consensus.

As a result, no one can open a liquor shop or a furnace to brew liquor. Someone caught selling liquor is fined Rs 51,000 and forced to parade around the village wearing a garland of shoes and slippers. The person caught buying alcohol is liable to be fined Rs 5,100.

An action committee consisting of 25 men and 25 women from Dharambandha has been formed to enforce the prohibition. Five senior members supervise them. The committee’s job is to conduct raids on places selling liquor based on the information received.

Villagers have also written a letter to Dharambandha Police Station, the SP Office and the Excise Department informing them about the campaign and got assurance of cooperation from them.

With the ban in place, incidents of domestic abuse have come down and the focus is on development and cleanliness of the village. Children and youth are concentrating on studies and sports.

Notably, Odisha had banned alcohol in 1994, following an incident in May 1992 in Cuttack, in which more than 200 people died and 600 people were hospitalised after drinking spurious liquor. However, the Congress government that came to power in 1995 lifted the prohibition on the grounds that it was causing huge losses in revenue.

According to an AIIMS Delhi study, “Nearly one in five alcohol users suffers from dependence and needs urgent treatment. Among the 5.7 crore people considered alcohol addicts in India, the number of people who need urgent treatment is pegged to be 3.2 crores. The consumption of alcohol has also been directly linked to crimes against women.”

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