Phulbani Action Group to hold a rally to drum up support
BERHAMPUR: The anti-liquor agitators of Kandhamal district have decided to take their demonstration to State capital Bhubaneswar.
They took the decision as the administration did not heed to their demand even after continuous dharna for 23 days. This continuous relay dharna was launched in front of the office of the Kandhamal district Collector in Phulbani on April 13 to protest against the opening of country liquor outlets in this volatile district.
The agitation was taken up by Phulbani Action Group (PAG), a conglomeration of 34 social organisations of Kandhamal district. Regional anti-liquor groups of the district, women, dalit and tribal organisations the area have extended support to the agitation. The convener of the PAG, Sasank Sahu, said the relay dharna would continue for an indefinite period.
Mr. Sahu said that two days ago, the PAG held a general body meeting to discuss their future course of action. They also condemned filing of ‘false cases' by police against social activists opposed to opening of liquor shops.
The PAG decided to hold a rally at lower PMG square this month to increase support base for their tirade against liquor in Kandhamal district.
“The particular date for the rally is yet to be decided but it is to be held on any day after second week of May,” Mr. Sahu said. Several veteran Gandhians, anti-liquor activists of the State and social activists were expected to take part in the anti-liquor agitation of the PAG in Bhubaneswar. Women would again be main chunk of participants expected to attend the rally. Till now the women activists have taken the lead in the anti-liquor agitation in Kandhamal district. An angry mob of women had destroyed some newly-opened liquor shops in Daringbadi area.
Opening of new country liquor outlets in Kandhamal has faced opposition from different sectors in Kandhamal district. After continuous protest rallies in all blocks of the district against these new liquor outlets failed, the PAG decided to hold continuous dharna in Phulbani. Mr. Sahu said they were opposed to the State government's ‘erroneous' decision to promote large-scale consumption of liquor in this tribal and dalit-dominated communally volatile area. The local, MP Rudramadhav Ray, all the three MLAs of the district, the Zilla Parishad, tribal organisation Kui Samaj etc have also opposed the opening of these new liquor outlets and urged the State government not to open these liquor outlets.
The anti-liquor activists alleged that opinions of the ‘gram sabhas' were never taken into account during opening of these new country liquor manufacture and selling units. Sale and mass manufacturing of country liquor was banned in Kandhamal district in the past. Only the tribal families were allowed to manufacture their own traditional liquor and they were permitted to keep five litres of liquor for their traditional ritualistic needs. In July 2008, the State government decided to issue new licences to for opening of country liquor units in Kandhamal. But the communal riots that hit district in August 2008 delayed the implementation.