In Kolkata and Puruliya town, on 28th September from 1 PM onward , women armed with brooms marched to the Excise Department demanding a stop to the rampant misuse of liquor in the state. Their slogans reverberated on the streets of these two cities – “Mod Hatao, Desh Bachao” (Remove Liquor, Save the Country) and “Mod, Juwa, Phor, Jhentia Bidai Kor” (Use Your Brooms To Sweep Away Liquor and Gambling).
Despite heavy rain in Kolkata and an equally heavy police presence in both places, about 5000 members of Shramajivi Mahila Samity and Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity met the Excise Department officials. While promising full cooperation and prompt action against unlicensed shops, the Excise Department totally ignored the demand for a reversal in the policy of the State Government to actively increase revenue from liquor, and therefore encourage drinking.
The two Samitis are very concerned about loss of income due to gambling and increased misuse of liquor and drugs amongst the working class, with its escalating impact on worker families. The present State Government is encouraging this tendency by bringing these vices within easy reach of people. In 2010-11 before this Government came into power, excise revenue from liquor was a mere 1082.94 crores. After 9 years of this regime, in 2019-20 it has increased more than tenfold to 112366 crores. In the period 2007-2011 where income from excise increased 12.25%, the next 5 years saw an increase of 54%. In the next period of 2016-2021, despite two years of lockdown and COVID, the revenue of the Excise Department has increased 33.2%. (https://excise.wb.gov.in/…/Portal_New_State_Excise...
This increase of revenue is coming at the costs of women, who are facing more and more violence from drunk men both in and outside the house. Most retail counters which are unlicensed are within 100 meters of schools, temples and Government offices. There have also been many deaths in the state due to illicit liquor.
This difficult situation has forced women on to the streets with brooms in their hands. Their demands are
- Sale of liquor from unlicensed counters must be stopped immediately.
- Only a limited amount of liquor must be sold from licensed shops at the present moment, while in the long term liquor sale should be stopped totally.
- Liquor sale must be disallowed within one kilometer of religious, health and educational institutions and Government offices
- All kinds of gambling must be declared illegal.