Residents of BJR Nagar in Hyderabad's Malkajgiri area stormed a toddy shop on Sunday, which they claimed was selling the drink in a densely populated residential area. The police were later called in to defuse the situation.
Locals picked a fight with the owners of the outlet, and even smashed a few crates of toddy that they found on the premises. They even pointed out that there were two schools in the area, one of which was less than 100 metres away.
"It is a lot of trouble for us. The people who drink toddy here urinate and even defecate outside our homes in the night. They create a ruckus after midnight sometimes and don’t let us sleep in peace. There have even been incidents where they bang on our door in the middle of the night," said Bhagyam, one of the protesters.
Residents said that the protest was long overdue, as the toddy shop had obtained permission from officials of the Excise and Prohibition department without taking the opinions or consent of the neighbouring houses. “The shop had first come up in 2014, but we had staged similar protests and the owner decided to shift it a few lanes away. However, over the last five months, he has decided to shift back here and has begun selling toddy, which is causing us a lot of inconvenience,” explained Arun, a resident.
According to guidelines laid down by the Excise Department and the Supreme Court, liquor can't be sold within 100 metres of either an educational institution or a place of worship. Locals also alleged that a new gate had been constructed inside the premises and an attempt was made to demolish the existing gate at the entrance so that the outlet could flout the 100-metre rule. “In 2018, the owner applied for permission to shift his premises with his existing license. The construction of the new gate also ensured that instead of coming under BJR Nagar, the 'entrance' would be in Sathireddy Nagar, the neighbouring colony. This was done to ensure that we could not have a say in its establishment," Arun added.
The police were called, but locals refused to budge and said that they would leave only after an assurance that toddy would not be sold on the premises.
“There have been thefts in broad daylight since the shop opened. Many men get drunk and stagger on the roads, making it unsafe for us and the girls in the colony to step out of our homes. How can authorities grant permission without our consent?" a woman who was part of the protest asked.
During the protest on Sunday, residents came armed with copies of representation they had submitted to the District Superintendent of the Excise and Prohibition Department. They also attached representations from other stakeholders while submitting their case to the Superintendent.
“The license holder has not obtained the consent of neighbours for carrying the toddy business in the said premises and we are raising our objection. In the interest of the residents and vicinity, we are giving this representation to the authorities concerned,” the letter by the residents stated.
A letter by the Takshasila Public School that was also marked to Malkajgiri MLA Mynampally Hanumantha Rao and the Malkajgiri Police Station, stated, “Since the toddy shop is less than 100 meters from our school premises, it is causing inconvenience to parents, teachers and school children. Request you to look into the matter by way of inspection and authorities may kindly direct the license holder to shift the toddy shop to some other place, far from the school.”
Shanker Vidyalaya High School, another institute situated close by, said in its letter, “We request authorities to make a serious note of the consequences that would arise by way of everyday nuisance caused in particular to the women and children who are using the road and need to pass by for their day to day activities. This would only bring inconvenience and break the peace and tranquility of the locality.”
Meanwhile, the police said that they could not take any action as the outlet had all permissions in place and was running the toddy shop legally. They also pointed out that the matter came under the purview of the Excise department.
The Excise department has deputed a team to visit the spot on Monday and carry out an inspection, besides recording the statements of local residents. Officials said that further action would be taken based on the report submitted by the team.