Over the last few days Adivasis in Telangana’s Asifabad are in a celebratory mode as the district Excise and Prohibition authorities have decided not to give licenses/permits to sell liquor in at least three mandals.
The decision came following resolutions taken by several villagers as per the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) 1996 and months-long anti-liquor campaigns. In three mandals – Jainoor, Sirpur (U) and Lingapur – as many as 253 Adivasi villages in 45 Gram Panchayats have passed resolutions stating that there should be no liquor sale in their areas.
The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 or PESA is a law enacted by the Government of India for ensuring self-governance through traditional Gram Sabhas for people living in the Scheduled Areas of India. PESA seeks to enable Panchayats and Gram Sabhas implement self-governance with respect to a number of issues such as customary resources, minor forest produce, minor minerals, minor water bodies, selection of beneficiaries, sanction of projects, and control over local institutions. This is perhaps the first time that PESA is being used in Telangana for an anti-liquor movement.
The anti-liquor movement was led by a coordination committee of Adivasi associations. The combined district is home to a sizeable population of tribals since times immemorial. The rich heritage and unique cultural practices of tribes like Gonds, Mannevars, Pardhans and Kolams is the part of the landscape.
Asifabad district Excise and Prohibition Superintendent Rajyalakshmi confirmed that the district authorities have approved the resolution on the complete ban of liquor sales in three mandals. She told TNM, “As people from Agency villages in three mandals have passed resolutions appealing for a ban on liquor sale, authorities have approved it. Action will be taken against those who try to sell liquor in those villages.”
The Adivasis do not view excessive alcohol consumption as something that only exploits the tribals in terms of health and finance, but something that also impacts them culturally.
“With excessive liquor consumption causing untimely deaths in Adivasis in many villages, families are losing their main breadwinners. We want the families to have a better life, so we came together and passed unanimous resolutions across the villages,” said Kumra Dunderao, who is president of the coordination committee for Adivasi associations.
Adivasi Mahila Sangam president Godam Jangu Bhai said, “We have decided to completely abolish alcohol in three mandals. There should be no sale of liquor at belt shops or wine shops.”
Kanaka Yadav, another member of the Adivasi association, said, “Since the last few years, alcohol consumption has exploited Adivasis, several people have died and as a result their families have been badly affected. We conducted a three-month long campaign and passed resolutions for the complete ban on liquor in Agency villages.”
In Telanganas' Asifabad 100's of #Adivasi women performed traditional dances in the success rally after they prohibited #liquor sales in their villages by passing unanmaous resolutions as #PESAAct.#komarambheemAsifabad @thenewsminute @NitinBGoode @dhanyarajendran pic.twitter.com/7BVCIxU9nF— CharanTeja (@CharanT16) November 8, 2019
The association gave representations to revenue and excise officials following the resolutions as per PESA. With officials accepting the liquor ban demand backed by the resolutions, hundreds of Adivasi women and men celebrated by performing traditional dances and songs on the streets in Jainoor.
Adivasi community leaders now aim to take the movement to other villages in the ITDA region.