By Uma and Inamul*
The second phase of the Nashamukt Bharat Yatra concluded on January 30 with a prayer meeting at Rajghat. This is the second phase of the yatra which concluded after 8 day long yatra, starting on January 23rd from Sabarmati Ashram, Gujarat and passed through Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Yatra was led by Medha Patkar and Dr. Sunilam and joined by 25 activists from 10 States, and conducted more than 25 meetings in schools, colleges, universities, community halls, public chowks in villages and cities, and reached out to more than one lakh people. It received tremendous support from different sections of society cutting across the boundaries of gender, caste, class, religion and age, but most importantly it touched an emotive chord with the women, especially the working class, who are often at the receiving end of the domestic violence, income loss and overall negative impact on children growth and education.
The day started with the public meeting at the Shaheed Park, near ITO, after paying homage to Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru. Speaking on the occasion, Medha Patkar (Narmada Bachao Andolan or NBS-National Alliance of People’s Movement or NAPM), said, “as we stand here, today, was the day when Bapu was killed by the merchants of hate and fanatics, however, they couldn’t kill his ideas and philosophy. In these trying times, our duty towards his principles require utmost dedication and devotion, since those in power have no regard for them anywhere in the country. The dream of an addiction free India was for a prosperous and healthy India, alas, the governments have turned that into a mockery and they are the biggest promoter of the liquor and other drugs, paying scant heed to the Art 47, Directive Principles of State Policy in the Indian Constitution. Our struggles have gained strength forcing many state governments to announce halfhearted measures, and so we have a long way to go, before we can rid the society of the addiction.”
Dr. Sunilam, Samajwadi Samagam – NAPM, speaking on the occasion said, “what is important for a nation? Health or Wealth ? Government’s cite often the loss of revenue for implementing prohibition, but can that be an excuse? We loose so much more due to its ill impacts, by loss of health, peace, prosperity and rising crime. As the finance minister is going to be presenting the Budget on February 1, we would like to demand that let him announce majors which will compensate for the revenue loss, if States choose to impose prohibition. At any cost, government has no business being in the business of sale and promotion of liquor and drugs.”
Swami Agnivesh said, “No religion in this world promotes alcohol or any other forms of addiction, even then religious leaders haven’t come forward asking for a ban on the sale and promotion of the alcohol and related drugs. This is ruining health and wealth of our society, present and future both.”
Sawai Singh, Rajasthan Samagr Seva Sangh activist, lamented the fact that Rajasthan government is in complete influence of the liquor and drug mafia, since they got the ban lifted within a year of the imposition of the prohibition. It’s unfortunate that Excise department has the photograph of Mahatma Gandhi in its offices, but shows no respect for his teachings continues to promote drugs and alocohol in the society.
Sanjay Kumar from Bihar said that the steps taken by the government of Bihar in this direction are inspirational and the recent formation of the longest human chain, in which nearly 3 crore people participated only showed the massive support the drive has from public. It can’t just be a state sponsored programme.
Sarbati Bai from Kathputli Colony, Delhi said that women are strength of the nation, they are the backbone of this country, but liquor and drugs is breaking their homes and their backs. They are suffering and unless strict steps are taken for the implementation of total prohibition and regulation of the sale and manufacture, this will continue to be a bane the women of this country.
Mahavir Bhai, 86 years old freedom fighter and Gandhian from Haryana said, our government has lost an political will whatsoever and is in complete control of the liquor mafia today, resulting in high rates of heinous crime against women and children. They pronounce that if a Panchayat passes a resolution then we will take measures and close the liquor shops in those villages but unfortunately nothing happens if anyone passes a resolution against the liquor shops in their villages, they continue to function.
Prafulla Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Orissa, said, our fight against addiction is a natural extension of our fight against the corporate control of the natural resources and transfer of resources, human to financial, from poor to the rich. Our struggle is for stopping this loot of the hard earned money of the laboring classes by the liquor mafia in collusion with the government and political elite. We have to start boycotting the companies engaged in this venture as we have done in our fight against Coca Cola and Pepsi.
Yatris recounted their experience of people sharing the public meetings in poll bound Uttar Pradesh, that how liquor is being given to the voters as enticement for votes. The liquor and political power, especially in elections has a close connection and Election commission has failed to undertake any concrete measures inspite of its best intentions.
Madhya Pradesh government in last few months has announced measures but they are far from being effective. These are at best mere expression of intentions and promises without any concrete political will towards taking action against liquor mafia, closing shops and moving towards complete prohibition in the state. The story is same in many other states, where governments have no desire to take forward the agenda of the total prohibition.
The programme was also joined by BR, Patil independent MLA Karnataka, Vimal Bhai, Bhupender Singh Rawat, Shahid Kamal, Nanu Gupta, Inamul Hasan, Manjoo Mohan, Vilayagodi Venugopal, Sanjay Kanojia, Tehseen Bhai, and other eminent activists from across the country. It also saw participation of activists from Narmada Bachao Andolan (MP), Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan (Maharashtra), Redbrigade (UP), Kathputli Colony, Khudai Khidmatgar, Lok Manch (UP), Lohia Academy (Orissa), Aavidya Mukti Sansthan (Bihar), National Cyclist Union, Rashtra Seva Dal, Swaraj Abhiyan, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Sharabandi Sanyukt Morcha (Chattisgarh), Socilaist Party (India), Yusuf Mehrally Centre, Zila Swamini Darubandi, All India Muslim Masawarat, Matu Jan Sangathan, Rajasthan Samagr Seva Sangh, Rajashthan Nagrik Manch, Jamat e Islami e Hind and many other constituents of National Alliance of People’s Movements.
It ended with the announcement and invitation for the second national convention of the Nasha Mukt Bharat Andolan will be held on April 12th in Nagpur, Maharashtra.
*With Nashamukt Bharat Andolan