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Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan Call for the Strictest Punishment for those Responsible Hooch Tragedy in Malwani
GBGBA to launch Anti-Liquor Campaign under Women’s Leadeship
Mumbai | 22nd June, 2015: It was alcohol from illegal breweries that was responsible for the death of around 100 people in the slums and chauls of Malvani. These breweries were no secret to the local police and excise authorities, who turned a blind eye, and to a great extent, even collaborated with them. Above all, the police tried to cover up the entire incident till as late as possible, claiming the first few deaths to be ‘accidental’. The callousness of the police when it comes to these slum dwellers can be seen from the fact that people lost their lives consuming the same poisonous brew, from the same shops, the next morning as well. This is the value of the lives of the working class in the eyes of our system. Just a decade ago, 87 people died in Vikhroli due to consumption of poisonous alcohol, but such incidents do not seem to bother the authorities enough to even take any preventive measures.
Most importantly, this unfortunate incident has to brought to light a major problem among the urban poor, that of alcohol addiction. Most of the victims were habitual drinkers between the age of 30-40, with a meagre daily wage between Rs.100-300, most of which was spent on this vice. Naseem Ansari, wife of the deceased Abdul Ansari who used to work as an electrician, recalls how her husband used to ask for Rs. 10-20 first thing in the morning to get a pouch of alcohol and only then bother to freshen up. Another example is of 40 year old Lakshman Nagendra who used to live with his mother as his wife and kids had already left him because of alcohol addiction. Gamre Dutta, a man survived by 7 children (5 of them girls), is remembered by his children for the bleak future he has left behind for them. The indifference of the authority towards the sufferings of the family can be seen in how Neelima, a woman who lost both her sons to the tragedy was told by Gopal Shetty (MLA, Borivali) that he would see if something could be done. She has not heard from him since. As the figures stand today, one in every three houses in malvani is in mourning.
The two illegal shops that sold the alcohol, run by Mamta and Langda Raju (both fellow residents of the slum), had been a bother for the people for decades. The women claim that they repeatedly complained to local police authorities about the same, however, these fell on deaf ears. It is claimed by the locals that the police regularly visited the shops to claim their ‘hafta’ and this was all that the interactions were limited to.
You do not see despair or grief in the eyes of the families; just acceptance. Acceptance of an inevitable fate, of a tougher life (economically and socially). However, you do see concern. The concern about not letting the future generation fall prey to this vicious trap of alcoholism. There are countless other such illegal thekas within the slums of Mumbai which provide cheap alcohol at prices like Rs.10-20 a pouch, all functioning under the willful ignorance of the local authorities who are more concerned with filling their pockets.
The Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan has always been against addictions of any type. We call for the strictest punishment for those responsible for the production and distribution of such illegal alcohol and drugs as well as the authorities who turn a blind eye to them and refuse to their duty. Hence, the Andolan will be launching a campaign against illegal alcohol with the help of its women leadership.
Anwari Nasrin Rachita Dilshad
Noor Jahan Sushila Upadhyay Pramila Choudhry