Andhra Pradesh is making it expensive to consume liquor while it works towards implementing prohibition, and women, especially those from rural areas who led the campaign to restrict the sale of liquor, are relieved the men are sober and not squandering their earnings.
On May 30, Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy took oath as Chief Minister and announced his decision to implement prohibition in the state — a poll promise. Since then, the government has taken over the management of liquor shops and cancelled the licences of bars while making it expensive to renew them.
Liquor consumption came down by 47.87 per cent between May and October in the state after the closure of more than 40,000 illegal liquor outlets, 880 licensed liquor shops, and the government taking over the remaining 3,500 licensed shops and restricting sales.
The liquor revenue fell from Rs 1,701.24 crore in October 2018 to Rs 1,038.89 crore in October this year.
“After the closure of illegal liquor shops in June and of permit rooms attached to licensed shops to consume liquor, the number of alcoholics in public has come down. Government-run liquor shops close at 8 pm which is a big relief because the men go home early... Women are happy because men are not drunk every evening,” said G Indira, a health worker and activist from Srikakulam.
The state is levying Additional Retail Excise Tax and last week, it cancelled the existing policy for bars — bringing down the number of bars by 40 per cent through the new policy.
“While we have doubled the license fee we also intend to make it very expensive to drink in bars. All these measures are pushing down the sales and consumption and we will continue to tighten it regularly,” said Deputy CM K Narayana Swamy, who is also the Excise Minister.
An earlier experiment
During the 1994 elections, a movement for prohibition led by Vardhineni Rosamma — an illiterate woman from Nellore’s Dubbgunta village — became a major poll issue with TDP founder-president N T Rama Rao promising total prohibition if voted to power. After taking oath as CM in January 1995, NTR imposed prohibition for the first time in the state. However, when N Chandrababu Naidu became the CM in 1997, he revoked prohibition citing loss of revenue, cross-border liquor sales and brewing of illicit liquor.
It began with women in many villages across Andhra Pradesh attacking “belt shops” — illegal liquor outlets — and arrack breweries in June 2017. It gradually became a movement in 13 districts with rural women venting their ire against liquor shops. On November 6, women of Rallagadda village of Visakhapatnam attacked an illegal brewery in their village and sent a video to officials even as Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy was discussing how to bring down the number of bars. The movement, which was similar to another one started in 1992 by women, coincided with Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy’s 3,648-km padyatra on November 6, 2017.
“As he walked through the villages and mandals, women in large numbers would surround him and tell him how alcohol addiction was ruining families. Almost everywhere, women told Jagan that they would vote for him if he promised to enforce prohibition,” YSRCP MLA Ambati Rambabu said.
According to Shiran Rahman, head of Chaitanya Sravanti, a Visakhapatnam-based NGO which is campaigning for prohibition and has conducted two separate studies on how alcoholism is causing economic ruin in rural households and its social and health effects in rural areas, “men spent their entire earnings of the day on liquor, leaving families in penury”.
“This causes marital discord leading to domestic violence. Children drop out of school with girl children becoming the first victims... In last couple of years, women have joined self-help groups or started working and earning more than their husbands. They are now taking care of the kids, paying fees and sending them to school. These women are now in a good position to demand prohibition or restricted sale of alcohol,” Rahman said.
Writer and activist Kancha Ilaiah, who wrote on the movement led by women in 1992-93, said, “This effort to implement prohibition in AP has the support of all women. In rural areas, women suffer the most. They are victims of domestic abuse and the family ends up in poverty. However, we have to see if total prohibition is possible or not because in 1992-93 it gave way to rampant illicit liquor brewing and cross-border liquor sales. It defeated the purpose of prohibition,” Ilaiah said.