IMPHAL: The dip in liquor sales during five-day Yaoshang festivities that officially concluded on Friday, seems to have dampened the spirits of Andro residents in the eastern end of the Imphal valley despite their elected representative Shyam Kumar--who defected to BJP from Congress--being made a minister in Manipur’s first BJP government.
The traditional occupation of Dalits of Loi community who live in the Andro area in Imphal East district of Manipur has been brewing the local liquor. Some theories claim that the Lois were pushed to the fringes of the valley for their so-called ‘impure’ profession on the orders of the Vaishanava priests who called the shots when Hinduism was introduced by Bengali priest Shanti Das Gosain some 300 years ago. The distance has in a way contributed to the differences in dialect, culture and attire of the people of Andro from the mainstream Meitei society.
Nevertheless, Imphal residents visit Andro, 30 km from the capital, and another Loi-dominated liquor brewing region Sekmai in the northern part of Imphal valley throughout the year. However, this Yaoshang, sales have been very less for the Andro residents as most people are busy celebrating the festival at their homes.
“On a normal day, cars and scooters would be lined up on the streets of Andro of revelers from Imphal. However, during Yaoshang, the sales dip substantially,” Sanjay, a liquor brewer said. While a one-litre packet of Andro liquor costs around Rs 60, rice beer is pegged at around Rs 30.
“The local liquor that we get in Imphal is adulterated. But, the Andro brew is pure. You can check the purity of Andro brew by simply pouring water into the liquor. If you observe movements of glycerine, you can be sure that the liquor is pure,” said Kh Indrajit, a regular visitor to Andro.
“If anyone is found adulterating and selling the liquor, he or she is excommunicated and is barred from carrying on with the business. We do not want anyone who brings a bad name to Andro and our community,” said Biren, a local brewer in Andro.
However, the brewers are hopeful that sales will go up as soon as Yaoshang ends. “Manipuris love Andro liquor. As soon as they are done with the Yaoshang festivities, cars will again line up the streets of Andro,” Biren added.