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A continuing saga of fight against liquor spotlight

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A file photo of women of Giripuram in Vijayawada during a protest against the opening of a wine shop in their locality.
A file photo of women of Giripuram in Vijayawada during a protest against the opening of a wine shop in their locality.

K.N. Murali Sankar

Women of Giripuram opposing a liquor shop in their area plan to petition Chief Minister

Liquor shops in residential areas leading to law and order problems, says a woman

Why not shift liquor shops to the outskirts, asks an AIDWA leader

VIJAYAWADA: Several places in the city are witnessing a continuous war between the womenfolk who yearn for peace and economic wellbeing at home and the authorities of Excise and Prohibition Department whose sole concern seems to be reaching the revenue targets fixed by the policymakers.

Whether it was Giripuram, Moghalrajapuram or Payakapuram, the resentment of the womenfolk against the opening of liquor shop, on the grounds that it would lead to social and economic unrest, was too conspicuous to be ignored. These women were unwilling to settle for anything less than relocation of wine shops away from residential localities.

“Allowing a wine shop in a residential area is dangerous. Long back we witnessed a couple of murders in our area only because of the presence of a wine shop. That’s why we strongly opposed the opening of one in our area,” says G. Sudha, a resident of Bongarala Moshe Street in Giripuram, where women staged several rounds of dharna to oppose the opening of a new wine shop.

But the protest, which went on for more than a month, failed to stop the licence holder from opening his shop a few days ago, after the police had taken into custody 17 agitating women. The women now plan to take the issue to the notice of the Chief Minister.

Similar problem

“This problem is not confined to one particular area,” says P. Durga Bhavani, general secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Mahila Samakhya’s city unit. “Women face similar problems everywhere. As the government fixes targets to the Excise Department, the officials too encourage belt shops and allow wine shops to do loose sales.”

She points out that when the officials distributed relief to the flood victims of Budameru recently, women pleaded with them not to hand over the cheques to their husbands, as they would spend all the money on liquor. Ms. Durga Bhavani alleges that the excise officials violate rules that prohibit allowing of liquor shops near schools and places of worship.

But excise officials insist that there is no violation of norms during allocation of shops as several rounds of inspections are carried before issuing the licences.

“As per our guidelines, an educational institution must be recognised by the Department of Education. Temples must be under the fold of the Endowments Department while mosques should be recognised by the Wakf Board.

A church should have a dome and a holy cross on the top,” explains Y.B. Bhaskara Rao, Excise Superintendent of Vijayawada Prohibition and Excise district.

The department’s records show that there are 118 bar and restaurants and 37 wine shops in the city and there is no change in the number of shops over the last five years. “But, there is a sharp increase in liquor consumption. In the city itself, the value of liquor sold was Rs. 15 crores in August last and it was Rs. 21 crores the same month this year.

We are observing an increase in the sales even after a hike in the price of liquor,” he admits.

The official says that a campaign has also been taken up to dissuade people from consuming liquor.

But women activists are not convinced by the argument of the excise officials that they are following all the rules and making efforts to wean men away from liquor. All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) city secretary K. Sridevi alleges that the government is keen only on improving the sale of liquor.

“Why can’t the government shift all the shops to the outskirts if it is really keen on discouraging people from liquor consumption?” she poses. “It is a law and problem too,” she says, pointing out that a good number of nuisance cases related to liquor consumption are being registered in Payakapuram, Krishnalanka, Patamata and One-Town police stations.

The police too admit that there is an increase in the number of cases pertaining to domestic violence in the recent past, though all of them can’t be directly attributed to consumption of liquor. “But, the impact of liquor on families is evident,” says Deputy Commissioner of Police U.V.S. Raju.

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