Brewing in the wasteland

| Updated on December 05, 2019

The Kabootra tribe in Bundelkhand survives on its age-old skill of making and selling liquor. Some are on the lookout for a more dignified livelihood

The closely-knit Kabootra tribe belongs to the Bundelkhand region in Uttar Pradesh. They live amidst several marginal communities belonging to extremely backward castes (MBCs) and scheduled castes (SCs) in a settlement that’s barely 100m from the newly built Bundelkhand Expressway.

The 10,000-strong community’s main occupation is brewing and selling liquor to people living in the surrounding villages. The women of the community are closely involved in the manufacturing process.

During festivals, the liquor is also offered to the local deity.

There are about 18 houses in the settlement, and the furnaces in two of them were ablaze, preparing raw liquor, at the time of my visit.

Most in the community are landless, and even those who were given land to build a house through governmental help struggle to hold on to it. The other communities treat this tribe as “untouchables”, making it difficult for its members to find a steady job or income.

This forces them to make a living from selling homemade liquor. While liquor-making is their traditional occupation, members of the tribe do not have a licence to sell the brew, and the police is complicit in this hooch trade.

The tribals are also subjected to police atrocities as they are reluctant to leave their traditional occupation in the absence of viable alternatives. The women are vulnerable to harassment and violence in their line of work.

Bundelkhand suffers from high outbound migration and displacement because of the region’s overwhelming poverty and lack of livelihood. Atul Tiwari of Samvad Samajik Sansthan, a non-profit organisation that works in the area, says that the community has little access to government beneficiary schemes, as they’re ostracised by the gram panchayat where they have no representation, adding to their distress.

Rajeev Tyagi is a Delhi-based photojournalist

Published on December 05, 2019

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