Madhya Pradesh Women Fight Closure of Boozing Yards

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Maintaining law and order situation is also far easier for police so long as ahatas are there, contended these women as they can reach anywhere easily if a fight breaks out because ahatas are only a few in number, but if there are no ahatas, crime-prone areas would multiply in numbers and it would be virtually impossible to guard all those places. A Different Truths report. 

Strange things are happening in Madhya Pradesh. Women generally are against liquor shops, bars, and other such outlets. But in Madhya Pradesh, just the opposite is happening. 

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan himself announced the closure of ahatas (courtyards adjacent to liquor shops) in the wake of the threat posed to law and order situation, particularly women’s security. But a section of women does not agree with the chief minister. They want ahatas to stay. In an unusual gesture, hundreds of women assembled at the CM house on 18th January to urge Shivraj Singh Chouhan not to close down ahatas for people to booze, as proposed in the new excise policy for next financial year. 

Pragati Gupta, the leader of Jagrit Mahila Sangathan, argues that the closure of ahatas would turn out to be counter-productive and the security of women would be jeopardized further. “More than 2.5 to 3 lakh people booze in the ahatas of Bhopal alone every day. If ahatas are closed, they would be forced to booze by the roadside, parks and other public places or at home. In both the conditions, they would pose a greater threat to women outside and also at home. Besides, watching their elders booze would leave children traumatised,” she said. 

A three-page memorandum addressed to the chief minister draws an analogy between public toilets being constructed under PM’s Swachchata Abhiyan and ahatas. “As public toilets are a must to keep the city clean and prevent people from defecating in the open, ahatasare a must to keep boozers restricted to certain points and not allow them to roam all over the city” read the memorandum. 

Maintaining law and order situation is also far easier for police so long as ahatas are there, contended these women as they can reach anywhere easily if a fight breaks out because ahatas are only a few in number, but if there are no ahatas, crime-prone areas would multiply in numbers and it would be virtually impossible to guard all those places, they warned.

Bhopal was also the scene of another strange protest when government teachers decided to tonsure their heads to press for their long-pending demands. Even women teachers joined the protest, with several of them getting their heads tonsured. Some became unconscious watching their colleagues undergo the ordeal. The teachers alleged that the state government was ignoring the directive of the High Court in this regard. The main demand of the protesters is that their services be brought under the education department and they be provided facilities given to government employees. Currently, they are under the local body department. The teachers had planned to “present” the chopped off hair to Sadhna Singh, wife of the chief minister, but were prevented from reaching the CM’s residence. According to age-old traditions, only widows get their heads tonsured. 

Another different form of protest was performed by blind people, who braved the biting cold to stage a jal-satyagarha at Lower Lake to press their 23-point demands, including direct appointments to 8000 backlog posts. Protesting under the banner of Dhrutihin Berojgarh Sangharsh Samiti, the also observed a relay hunger strike. 

Standing in deep waters of the lower lake at Neelam Park, they also demanded the construction of hostels for the students in colleges at the state and divisional level and free public transpiration. A heavy police force was deployed in the area. As soon as the news was flashed on the media, MoS for cooperatives Vishwas Sarang rushed to the site to hold talks with the protestors. But the minister failed to convince them to end their agitation as the protesters bluntly told him that assurances would not work this time. After talks with minister failed, teams of Madhya Pradesh State Disaster Emergency Response Force (SDERF) were positioned on boats throughout the day to avert any untoward incident. 

A team of district administration led by ADM also tried to convince the protestors to come out from the water but in vain. In the evening, a team of doctors took a boat to the agitators and examined their blood pressure and other conditions. One of the protestors was taken to hospital for treatment after he developed a fever. Despite all the protests, the problem remains unresolved.

(L.S. Herdenia, IPA Service) 

Photos from the Internet

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