With worry writ large on their faces, dalit women brought to the fore the persistent problem of belt shops ruining their lives as Municipal Administration Minister M. Mahidhar Reddy descended on the remote Vasipallipadu for an interaction with the commoners at the village square on Tuesday.
“We will not allow you to go back till belt shops are banished from our village,” yelled a 25-year-old woman all of a sudden taking by surprise revenue and police officials as also the Minister who was accompanied by Ongole MP M. Srinivasulu Reddy and Congress MLA from Kondepei G.V. Seshu during the second day Rachabanda programme.
Amid tight security, the Minister, after focusing on the listed subjects, touched the issue raised by women and said: “It is not to proper to project as if we are encouraging sale of liquor at the village square everyday.”
“I will definitely direct the officials concerned to take action,” he added, before winding up the interaction.
“The government has provided white ration cards, pensions, health cards under Rajiv Arogyasri and also arranged for loans from banks almost to all of us. But, its the belt shops which are ruining our lives,” 30-year-old P. Manoja said while talking to The Hindu as the Minister's convoy left the hamlet motoring down the bumpy road leading to the Chennai-Kolkata highway.
Forty-five-year-old Arogyam, leader of a self-help group, said: “In our village, with a population of over 1000, each couple works hard and, on an average, takes home Rs. 600 to Rs. 700 every day. Yet, they are unable to lead a peaceful life because of addiction to liquor by their men who also beat them up.” Members of five groups in the village defaulted payment of dues to banks because of the vice among men, she added.
Another woman Matta Yesuamma said: “Both my husband and son drink together in the house itself as liquor is easily available through these belt shops. We are left with little money to take care of education of our children. It will be nice if liquor is banned altogether.”
“We ran from pillar to post and met revenue, police and excise officials. But none has come to our rescue,” added another woman Ravamma and referred to the death of Venkateswarlu and Nageswara Rao of the village due to excessive drinking.