Raghava M.

BANGALORE: Tears roll down Kempamma, a resident of Chikkabidarakal village, as she narrates to The Hindu on Sunday, the ordeal she is going through to support her family of five after the death of her 55-year-old husband Krishnappa. An autorickshaw driver, Krishnappa was one of the 23 who died after consuming hooch in Nelamangala taluk two years ago.

Sudden death

“He was the sole bread winner. We did not expect him to die consuming hooch,” Kempamma says as she attends to her two-month-old grandson. “He loved children a lot… he took great care of us. Now we are just about managing to make ends meet,” she says bravely.

Since Krishnappa’s death, Kempamma has been running the household on the income of her two unmarried daughters and her younger son who work in the garment industry. “Except this three-room house we own no other property. I have to arrange for a loan to perform the marriage of my daughters.” The compensation of Rs. 1 lakh given by the State Government was spent on the marriage of another daughter, she says.

Similar is the ordeal faced by the families of Venkateshappa and Honnachari, who were also among the victims of the hooch tragedy. “Despite the tragedy, there has only been an increase in the number of people consuming arrack,” observes Bhagya, the elder daughter of Krishnappa, adding that the people accused of selling hooch that day are going about their business as usual.

“There are two places in the village where people sell arrack clandestinely,” she says.

A labourer, Chandrappa, who consumes alcohol, hesitates as he answers queries about the locations where arrack is being illegally sold in the village. “I found the shop nearby closed last night because of the ban on arrack. Some of my friends purchased arrack at Rs. 12 a sachet yesterday,” he said. On second thoughts, Chandrappa denied that such a shop ever existed.

Wait

Krishnappa, an authorised arrack seller and a farmer from Nelamangala hobli, says he closed down his shop after the Government promised at a meeting in the village that Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) and other liquor will be made available at a cheaper rate instead. “The Government has promised to implement this within two months,” he says.

Mr. Krishnappa, who had been running the shop for more than a decade, says that his income from arrack sales was a good supplement to his earnings from agriculture. “We need the Government to give us an alternative if they do not provide IMFL liquor. My family cannot subsist on the income from agriculture,” he says.

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