Second Rajasthan village votes to close liquor shop

20-03-2017
DH

 

People of Rozada in Jaipur rural opted to shut down the only liquor shop in their village, thereby making it only the second panchayat in Rajasthan to become alcohol free.

A referendum on whether the liquor shop should be shut down or allowed to function saw 93% of the villagers voting in favour of its closure. Conducted under the sub-divisional magistrate’s supervision, the referendum looked more like a proper panchayat election with long queues before the voting station.

In the voting that went on from 8 am Sunday morning till 5 pm, 2,581 people cast their votes. While 2,270 - nearly 93%– opted to shut down the liquor shop, 170 villagers voted against the closure and 141 votes were rejected. “This is the best day of my life,” 26-year-old Lalli Devi, whose husband Jaipal died of liver failure, told DH

“Alcohol has ruined many families here,” revealed Badam Devi, among those who voted for the liquor shop’s closure. “Women are badly affected since they lose their husbands and sons to this habit. This is the worst disease from which many diseases spring.”

The referendum is the culmination of a 363-day anti-liquor campaign conducted by the villagers, who are trying hard to close down the only existing alcohol vend with the help of the organisation Sharab Sangharsh Samiti.

“Our team has sensitised the villagers and convinced the administration to shut down the shop here,” the Samiti’s spokesperson Uttam Kumar Sharma told DH.

Tehsildar of Amber Tehsil (to which Rozada belongs) who acted as the returning officer for the referendum said the large turnout at the village could prompt other villages to close down liquor shops in their areas.

The referendum was held according to Rajasthan Excise Rules 1975 which authorises the panchayat to enforce prohibition or close down liquor shops if 51% of the villagers vote for it.

“If 20% voters demand closure of a liquor shop in their area, the demand will be verified at the appropriate level and the proposal will be put to vote. If there are 51% votes in favour of the resolution, a provision will be made for the closure of the shop from the next financial year,” the rules state.

In March 2016, Kachchbali Gram Panchayat in tribal-dominated Rajsamand district became the first village in Rajasthan to vote overwhelmingly to shut down its only liquor shop.

Rajasthan has seen a heated public debate on liquor prohibition over the past few years, especially after MLA Gurusharan Chhabra lost
his life while on a hunger strike demanding total prohibition.

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