It’s definitely not going to leave men on a high in Himachal Pradesh, literally….writes Vishal Gulati
Saying thumbs down to liquor vends within neighbourhoods, women’s brigades across the state, especially in rural areas, have been demanding their closure or shifting.
The protesters left a vend owner with little to cheer about after smashing his kiosk in the remote Shillai area of Sirmaur district.
Elsewhere in Shimla, Kullu, Kangra, Hamirpur and Mandi districts, the womenfolk are protesting against such shops being shifted to residential areas with the Supreme Court shutting down liquor vends near highways.
In the last few days, women were protesting against the shifting of a liquor vend from Saloni village to Karer village in Barsar tehsil of Hamirpur district.
On Thursday night, 50-odd women staged a sit-in protest throughout the night against the liquor shop.
The situation was brought under control after a police team rushed to the spot and assured the shop would be shifted.
In the picturesque tourist resort of Narkanda, some 65 km from the state capital and known from growing delicious apples, and Nurpur in Kangra district, women have been demanding liquor shops be shifted from residential areas.
“The consumption of liquor not only creates nuisance in the area but even ruins families,” Neena Sarkek, a protestor in Narkanda, told.
She said the administration has assured that the liquor shop would be soon shifted. “If it fails to shift the liquor vend, the protest will begin again,” she added.
Additional Excise and Taxation Commissioner K.K. Sharma said all the liquor shops have been allocated as per state government’s policy.
“If there is a genuine demand from the locals, we are shifting the liquor shops. Most of the ongoing protests are politically motivated,” Sharma said.
Interestingly, the Cheuni panchayat in Seraj assembly constituency, the remotest in Mandi district with a population over 1,600, took the lead in passing a resolution in February banning cigarettes, liquor and the playing of cards in its jurisdiction from the next fiscal.
Taking a cue, 15 nearby panchayats have also passed such resolutions.
“Despite passing the resolution by the panchayat, the government has allotted a liquor shop in Cheuni village and that within 25 meter radius of a school. This is a gross violation of the Supreme Court order,” local activist and journalist Hem Singh Thakur told.
Gram Panchayat head Indira Devi said she has filed a public suit in the high court to get relief.
“Allowing a liquor shop to operate in the village besides the panchayat adopting a resolution unanimously is against the spirit of the panchayati raj institutions that empowers governance at the grassroots,” she said.
The women’s power has prevailed against the sale of liquor.
In Naina Devi area in Bilaspur district, known for the hilltop Naina Devi shrine, local authorities were forced to shift the liquor shop this week from the village following a fortnight-long clamour.
Earlier, Himachal Pradesh had 1,900 liquor shops.
Official records say there were 950 liquor shops and bars located within 500 metres from the highways that were facing closure with the Supreme Court’s order that came into force on April 1.
However, after downgrading 16 state highways of 1,308 km length nearly 250 liquor shops have been saved from closure.
The state Communist Party of India-Marxist has demanded that the de-notification of the roads be withdrawn and the government must ensure that there is strict enforcement against drunken driving as is the norm in Chandigarh, the common capital of Punjab and Haryana.