From Mayurbhanj to Malkangiri, Nabarangpur to Nayagarh and Konark to Kalahandi, people of Odisha now should have a common agenda: To check liquor menace. There are ‘war cries of Odias’ against drugs and drinks. People of Odisha are no more unconscious about corruption, nepotism, misgovernance and opportunism. It is time to taking up social causes and raising voice for a greater cause. Campaign for prohibition is not new in Odisha. Freedom fighters were active during the Independence struggle to end the liquor nuisance. After the Independence, the anti-liquor movement was confined to limited pockets. Farmers are struggling to find labourers in Odisha. The work culture of the state has worsened drastically over the past few years. Why? People have taken to excessive drinking is shaped the state government for the problem. Until 2000, there was only one or two liquor shop for a block in the vicinity. Now, there are ten. The state government has made liquor easily accessible. Liquor shops have sprouted across the state. The jump was highest in rural areas. Liquor sales surged at a much faster pace. Consumption of country liquor as well as India-made foreign liquor (IMFL) increased almost 11 times. The state government changed its excise policy after Naveen Pattanik became chief minister in 2000 as the head of an alliance between Biju Janata Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It started allotting more liquor shops and began increasing licence fees in a bid to boost revenue. The growing importance of excise duty for Odisha, one of India’s least industrialised states, is in contrast to Haryana, a more industrialised state where liquor consumption is also high.
While growing liquor sales may have boosted the treasury, but the poor is facing disastrous situation. A revenue model that promotes liquor sales has a huge social cost on health and status of women in a state where much of society is still feudal-minded. There are few jobs for skilled or semi-skilled youth because no big or small-scale industry has been set up due to lack of political will, bureaucratic lethargy and corruption. This has led to growing frustration among the youth, especially in rural areas, who do not wish to till land or do manual work. Many of these people connive with village administration to siphon off money from welfare schemes and blow it up on liquor. I am waiting for the day when Odisha government led-by drunkard Naveen Patnaik would announce 2 rupees subsidized liquor for public after 5 rupees meal. Our CM is has been overflowing with innovative ideas, and who knows the above words would be true very soon. He talks about better medical facilities in state in front of public rallies but in flipside he wants more liquor shops by e-auction. Government starts Health Insurance under Biju Kalyan Yojana, but will it work, when the government promotes ‘Biju’ Liquor Company? Anyway, BJD can do anything for luring votes. Everyone acquainted with this truth.
Instead of lunching a comprehensive and inclusive policy for uplifting poverty, he is doing liquor business, it always sadden me. I hope BJD and Naveen will soon realise that winning electoral battle is of minuscule importance compared to the task of making Odisha a vibrant state where equality is the creed. Please come join hands with party of ‘Hand,’ and show the strength of people to the Naveen and Co. who are suffering from intellectual malnutrition.
Written with inputs from Sanjay Kumar Bissoyi.