In an unprecedented development for the first time in the history of Sirmour district, rural hill women who generally spent their time in â€˜Chulla â€“ Chowkaâ€™ and â€˜Ghas â€“ Paniâ€™ are up in arms against the opening of liquor vends in the Sirmour district. During past one month more than fifty Mahila Mandals of the district have registered their strong protests with the Sub Divisional Magistrates of their areas and Deputy Commissioner of the district against the liquor meanness which was now approaching their rural homes.
In the recent development some NGOs of the district have discussed the matter to brought Mahila Mandals which were up in arms against the opening on liquor vends under one banner to strengthen their agitation against the liquor policy of the state government. NGO feels that announcing opening of new liquor vend â€˜on demandâ€™ or on the choice of officers of department of Excise and Taxation was â€˜dangerous liquor policy of state governmentâ€™ which had triggered lot of opposition in the rural areas of Sirmour district. NGOs feels that awareness among women against the bad effects of liquor on the society â€˜should be enchased to eradicate or minimize this social evil in the society instead of crushing the women movementâ€™.
It is pertinent to mention here that in maximum Panchyats chaired by the women Presidents, proposals for opening of liquor vends in the Panchyat area were not even brought for discussion in the Panchayat meetings. Just opposite to this Panchyats chaired by men were recommending almost regularly, opening of liquor vends in their Panchyat areas which had triggered women opposition.
A recent study on women agitation conducted by a leading NGO Vishwa Jagriti Manch in the district revealed that women organizations forced 19 Panchayats of the district to withdraw their proposals for opening of liquor vends in their villages. 14 such proposals forwarded by the concerned Panchyats did not materialize due to strong opposition of women organizations of the Panchayats. At 17 places agitation of rural women were witnessed in different forms. Administration had tough time in controlling such protests at many places. Mahila Mandals of several areas in the first stage submitted their memorandums against the opening of liquor vends to DC and SDMs of their areas but when their voice was not heard, at a number of places women organizations took out protest march, staged Dharna, blocked traffic and clashed with vend contractors also.
In some very interesting and lesson taking incidents hundreds of rural women of Koti Dhaman area welcomed a team consisting ten policemen, Excise and Taxasion Inspector and liquor vend contractor with Dandas when they arrived for the opening of a liquor vend in their village. Finally they dropped the idea and returned safe to their homes. In Katcha Tank area of Nahan town when women came to know that a liquor vend was being opened in their locality without any information to any one and without seeking any NOC from local Municipal Committee, hundreds of women rushed to Bus stand Chowk and sat on Dharna for almost whole night. They did not allow the liquor contractor to open a vend in the locality. The agitation lasted for more than two weeks. Women also took out protest marches and sat on the main road forcing the vend contractor to drop the idea.
Women organizations of Kunthal Pashog area of Rajgarh Sub Division blocked Rajgarh â€“ Solan road at Neri Pul and hundreds of women of Satiwala Panchyat in Nahan Sub Division blocked Chandigarh â€“ Dehra Dun Highway for over three hours, after their several requests fell on the deaf ears against opening of liquor vends in their areas. Same story was repeated by the women of Kando Haryas in Bhatgarh Panchyat in Sangrah Tehsil, going one step ahead these rural women were reportedly continuously searching the shops of the area as they doubt that wine was being sold secretly by some persons, after they did not allow opening of a vend in the area. Women members of Mahila Mandal Mangarh continued Dharna in front of the liquor vend for over three weeks in a memorandum submitted to SDM Rajgarh they alleged that touts of vend contractors misbehaved with them and false cases were registered against them. There were number of other stories like these which depicts courage and awareness of women of this district against the nuisance of wine.
When contacted Mr. Karam Chand, Assistant Commissioner, Excise and Taxation, Nahan said that he had been always busy in patching up the matters where women had taken a step against the opening of a liquor vend. He said last two months were so hectic for the department that he could not avail even leave for single day to see his family. He added that at present there were 74 liquor vend in the district. This year eight more liquor vend were approved by the H.P. cabinet. In addition to this state government had allotted 20 more liquor vends to be opened in the â€˜suitableâ€™ areas of the district. Keeping in view the on going women agitation against vends, department could open only six vends out of the 20 so far. He said that if a Panchayat allow opening of a liquor vend in their area rupee one per bottle sold by the vend is paid to the local Panchayat every month. It was the main reason that several Panchayats had made such recommendations but women were up in arms in many areas against the decisions of their Panchayats.