With the election campaign gathering momentum, women in drought-hit Maharashtra villages who walk miles to fetch water have another task at hand: To stop the flow of liquor flooding their doorsteps.

It’s hard to get drinking water, but country liquor is flooding villages ahead of elections, said the women from Maharchikna village in Buldhana district, who have threatened to launch a hunger strike if the police fails to stop the distribution of country liquor by political parties.

Lure of the bottle

“You will find hundreds of country liquor dens in drought-affected areas. Luring distressed men with liquor is easier than providing jobs and water,” said Vanmala Shinde, a woman farmer from Wadali village in Buldhana. Crushed by mounting debt following repeated crop failures, her husband took to the bottle and then committed suicide a few years ago. Since then, Vanmala has been leading an anti-liquor campaign.

The State government has prohibited liquor in Chandrapur, Wardha and Gadchiroli districts. But country liquor trade is a flourishing business during the elections. In Murumgaon village of Gadchiroli, about 200 women have joined hands to block liquor from flowing into their village.

Keeping vigil

These women have resolved that they will not vote for any party or candidate that offers liquor to lure the villagers. The women have formed a squad that patrols the village borders 24x7 to ensure that politicos and their supporters don’t enter the village with liquor.

They are also keeping a close watch on those addicted to liquor. Women in Gadchiroli have put up posters warning political parties that candidates who give liquor to their menfolk will bite the dust.

Women in many other villages have taken similar steps. In Kakadyeli village, women have resolved that any party that distributes liquor anywhere will not be allowed to campaign in the village.

“It is in the interest of politicos to get people addicted to liquor. These are the same politicians who blame farmers for committing suicides under the influence of liquor. Liquor plays a major role in elections in these areas and we are trying to fight the strong liquor lobby, which has support of police and politicians,” said Manda Alone, a woman farmer from Wardha district.

Demand for liquor ban

Interestingly, women have been repeatedly demanding a liquor ban in the State, but the State is against the demand as it will result in a loss of revenue of more than ₹13,000 crore annually.

In fact, just ahead of the poll announcement, the State was mulling allowing online sale and home delivery of liquor, claiming that it would curb drunken driving. However, increasing the revenue was the prime objective behind the decision.

The decision remained on paper because of staunch opposition from women anti-liquor campaigners.

Interestingly, the State government has admitted that alcohol addiction is one of the main reasons for farmer suicides in the State.