About 145 people died in the last two years due to accidents and ill-health after consuming alcohol in the tribal community.
Image: Protesters at Annaikatti

Tribal communities from Attapadi in Kerala have been staging a protest from February 17 at Annaikatti in Coimbatore asking the Tamil Nadu government to close down the TASMAC shops.

Attapadi has a tribal population of around 30,000 people belonging to the Kurumba, Muduga and Irula tribes. Attapadi was made a non-liquor zone in 1996 by then Chief Minister AK Antony. Later in 2002, Late former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam lead the Attapaadi Declaration and called the place ‘liquor and drug-free zone’.

But that has not stopped liquor from freely flowing in the area or made people abstain. For fourteen years now, tribal community people have been travelling from Attapadi to Annaikatti just to get liquor from the TASMAC shops in Tamil Nadu. The place remains liquor-free on papers but there are about five de-addiction centres for 70,000 people in Attapadi.

During the protest at Annaikatti in Coimbatore, Murgesan, a tribal from Attapadi said, “In the past two years, more than 145 people have died in our village. We have been protesting from February 17, 2016, and in the last 13 days, seven people have died due to liquor consumption.”   

Both Kerala and Tamil Nadu governments have not taken acted on their pleas. “We spoke to the collector on Monday and they came to Annaikatti at 4 pm and promised to shift these shops. We won’t stop this protest till we see a government order regarding this issue.

He added, “Women are becoming widows and even children who go to schools have started drinking who live in the Attapadi forest.”

About 145 people died in the last two years due to accidents and ill-health after consuming alcohol.

Even the auto-rickshaws which travel between Annaikatti and Attapadi gets alcohol for tribal communities living in Attapadi by charging additional commission. It is reported that people even make illicit country liquor in the dense forests of the Silent Valley National Park.

In another article by The News Minute published on June 20, 2015, we had reported that whenever there is news about infant deaths, there are charity missions which stock the houses of tribals with food. The government also gives them free meals and NREGA provides them money. They are given various other freebies also by the government. With the government providing food and essentials, but no employment other than NREGA, many men in the locality simply spend their earnings on liquor.