Madhya Pradesh: 70 villages impose self prohibition against sale of liquor in state

Over 70 Gujjar villages in Morena district of Madhya Pradesh have pledged to impose complete prohibition of alcohol. The pledge was taken in the presence of Hairi Giri Maharaj-- a highly revered seer of the Gujjar community--on Sunday. The villagers have also decided to impose a fine of Rs 11,000 on anyone who is found drunk from the community. Also the villagers have decided to impose a fine of Rs 51,000 on any found indulging in the liquor trade.

Anyone from outside the Gujjar community would, however, not be bound by the pledge. Neither would fines be imposed on anyone from outside the community.

The decision by the Gujjars in Morena to practice self imposed prohibition has come at a time when the state chief minister has announced implementation of ban on the sale of liquor in a phased manner.

The chief minister was forced to announce the phased implementation of prohibition after the clamour for ban on sale of liquor rose from various parts of the state.

It all started with the Supreme Court directive to ban sale of liquor within 500 meters of national and state Highways. The government tried to subvert the Supreme Court decision by denitrifying state and national highways. However, when it was not possible an attempt was made to relocate liquor shops outside the 500 meter boundary.

The villagers have decided to impose a fine of Rs 51,000 on any found indulging in the liquor trade.

"People could see through the government design and started protesting against relocation of liquor shops that were actually being shifted to residential areas. After the liquor lobby and the administration collided to subvert the protests, people demanded complete prohibition and the completely unorganised protests assumed the shape of a state-wide campaign against sale of liquor," said Dipti Singh of the Congress who is leading the campaign for prohibition in Bhopal.

MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had earlier announced ban on the sale of liquor within 500 meters of the banks of the river Narmada but had stopped short of announcing a complete ban saying, no new liquor shops would be opened in the state.

The liquor lobby has not taken kindly to the protests and have met the district administrators in various parts of the state. In Indore, the liquor traders have alleged that the politicians were blackmailing and extorting money from them by threatening protests.

In Vidisha, liquor traders have met the district administration demanding back their earnest money saying it was difficult to do business in the prevailing environment.