Sunshine story from a village that once made moonshine

An entire village turns away from making liquor for livelihood and to other means of earning

shivani

Shivani Chaturvedi | May 21, 2010


No more making liquor for Baudai - villagers working in a field
No more making liquor for Baudai - villagers working in a field

If you had visited Baudai village some time ago and come here again today, you will think you got your directions mixed up and have landed in a different place.

In Baudai, Katauta in Phulpur tehsil, about 35 km from Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, more than 70 percent of its 5,000-odd people earned their bread by manufacturing liquor at home with women playing an active role in it for 20-25 years.

But no more. Today, you would see people ploughing fields, doing labour work or chatting in the streets but no liquor-making anymore for them. As you leave the main road and walk through a narrow footpath to enter the village, there is a well where women are fetching water. They are busy chatting but as you pass them they will give you a look of asking “who you are and what brings you here.” These are the same women who used to spend most of their time assisting their husbands in that business or were at the receiving end from their drunken husbands.

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Women of Baudai had to earlier help their husbands in making the liquor or bear them drunken

Under the neem tree near the Sathya Sai Community Welfare Centre in the village, Pappu and Kishan are playing, no longer afraid of their fathers who used to drink after producing litres of liquor at their homes and then thrash their kids. And the wheat, potato and mustard crops are giving a good yield as villagers have returned to the farms.

The credit for this change goes to LSVS Kameswara Rao, chief manager (HR) of IFFCO and a member of the Sathya Sai Seva Organisation, who with other members of this voluntary organisation, village head Usha Devi Bind and her husband Jeet Lal, launched a campaign against liquor manufacturing in the village in 2005.

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LSVS Kameswara Rao - the change agent

Their efforts bore fruit by 2008-09 when villagers stopped brewing moonshine and started earning a decent living. What’s more, the percentage of villagers drinking liquor came down from 99 percent to less than 50 percent, says Usha Devi.

With a goonghat drawn on her head, Sumari Devi came out of her straw hut and in a barely audible voice admitted that she used to help her husband Ram Achal in making liquor. She will never do so again, she adds.

“My husband used to make liquor at home and sell it. He also used to drink a lot. I had to suffer humiliation because of him. Cops came to our home daily. But things are improving now. We stopped manufacturing liquor at home two and a half months ago. My husband’s health is improving which had deteriorated because of liquor,” she said.

Though 52-year-old Achal’s health now does not permit him to do any labour work, he has realised that making liquor did not actually help him. And as far as earning for the family is concerned, Achal’s sons are now working and giving money to their parents.

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Ram Achal and his wife Sumari Devi now no longer brew liquor

Just a short walk from Achal’s home is Ram Dayal’s house. It is still a shapeless mud hut, roofed with khaprail (earthen tiles), but Dayal, 39, is now able to take two meals with his family after doing labour work. Getting 20 days work a month and earning Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 give him more satisfaction that his previous career of liquor making though he used to earn more then.

Like Achal and Dayal, many villagers including Jag Narayan, Kamlapati, Amrit Lal, Kade Deen, Nand Lal, Panna Lal, Heera Lal, Rati Pal, Acche Lal, Shivraj, Phool Chand, Lalle and Kallu have given up on producing moonshine and turned to making an honest living.

Time was when Baudai was a den for people from nearby villages such as Mankapur, Barjiwara, Nunaiya, Amolwa, Sawdeh and Sudipura, who came here to drink and then create nuisance.

That was the time when people could make Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 a month by producing five to 10 litres of raw liquor a day, whereas, through farming and labour they could earn only Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000. Many villagers did not even have land to carry out farming.

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Ram Dayal gave up making liqour and now earns a living off labour work

The biggest reason that forced the villagers to prefer liquor making was the loss incurred in carpet weaving business. About 20-25 years back most villagers were engaged in carpet weaving. The products were sold in Bhadoi and Handia and other towns and cities. But as the cost of weaving came down, there was little profit left and the villagers had to look for other options.

Some shifted to labour work while some migrated to Delhi and Mumbai. But the major chunk remained in the village and their destiny took them to the illegal business of liquor making. Illiteracy was yet another factor that pushed them in that direction. This desi alcohol claimed several lives over the years. A panchayat meet was called to discuss the issue whenever some unfortunate incident took place but as there were not many options to make a living, nothing could be done.

It was in 2005 when Rao, 59, got into social service in Baudai. In November that year he started receiving several complaints from children in the village that their fathers were making liquor at home. They used to drink a lot and beat their mothers. Rao, who is working as social activist for more than 25 years along with his IFFCO job, told Governance Now: “For the past five years I am working in this village, trying to educate children, teach them social values and making efforts to create awareness regarding sanitation. Children who came to the Sathya Sai Seva Organisation for getting education complained about liquor making. In several cases women supported their husbands in this activity. I along with other members of the Seva Organisation called parents of those children and used to given them counselling for months.” Awareness campaigns were carried out. Children were asked to close the doors and not allow their fathers to enter the home if they were drunk or made liquor.

Gradually, village head Usha Devi and her husband Jeet Lal Bind joined the campaign. Jeet Lal, a teacher in a primary school in Baudai, too had undergone the same sufferings in his childhood. “I felt very bad. At that time I promised myself to make full contribution in uprooting this evil from society. In 2000 I passed BA. I started working as insurance agent and met more and more people. I tried to reach more number of people and help them in some or the other way,” said Jeet Lal.

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Jeet Lal Bind, a primary school teacher, wanted to route out his village's liquor problem since childhood

In 2002 Jeet Lal was appointed shiksha mitra. Being a teacher in the village Jeet Lal couldn’t contest the election for the village head but he wanted to do something for his village. His wife Usha Devi got elected as the village head. After six months of her tenure, Usha Devi and Jeet Lal became an important part of the campaign against liquor making. They along with Rao and other members of the Seva Organisation started moving door to door, telling people to shun the illegal business. About 10-12 IFFCO employees' families also joined the campaign. Initially, the campaigners had to face opposition from the villagers. Those involved in the business were afraid that their source of income will be taken away. The politics at the village level also tried to weaken the campaign.

It was then the village head and other people in the campaign tried to seek the help of the police administration. The village head approached then CO Arun Dixit. “Initially I didn’t get involved much. But when I saw the faces of children who also were getting harassed because of liquor production in the village and because their fathers used to drink like anything, I decided to put all my efforts in freeing the village from this destructive business. I started visiting villagers’ home. Besides, I had to mount pressure on a few groups in the village who did not want the programme to become a success,” said Dixit, who is now with the Special Task Force in Lucknow. A few police constables under whose patronage the villagers carried out the activity were also identified.

Liquor story

STF CO Arun Dixit made sure the police chipped in to help the campaign against liquor

And on one day the liquor producers were taken to Sathya Sai Community Welfare Centre and were made to take the vow that they will give up this malpractice.

It took a while but slowly the things started changing. Sheela’s and Bitaula’s husbands who earlier used to make liquor and also beat them after drinking, are now going to farms. Children are going to pathshala without any fear in their minds of getting a thrash from their fathers after they return home. And the 70-year-old Bhaggal now just wants to forget those days.

When contacted, DIG Allahabad BB Sharma said, the police are keeping a track of the villages where liquor production is rampant. Police combing is done in such regions. “We take stringent action against those involved in this activity. In some cases such people are charged under the Gangster Act and in other cases action is taken under the IPC,” he said. For the drunkards, the police opt for counselling and creating awareness among such people regarding ill effects of consuming liquor, he added.

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A battle well-fought and won for village head Usha Devi

Though a very small percentage of the villagers are still making moonshine, the campaigners believe that these people will soon be brought on the right track. But the main concern of the campaigners is that the government should get more serious towards creating self-employment opportunities or setting up small industries in the village so that people can get proper employment and they do not ever think of returning to the old ways.

Allahabad district magistrate Sanjay Prasad said there are several self-employment schemes of the government such as Swarna Jayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojna, besides the Vikas Nigam has various subsidy based schemes for self-employment. Benefits of these schemes will be given to people in the village. “We will try to focus on this particular village besides other such villages where liquor making activity is in full swing,” he added.
 

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