CHENNAI: With DMK president M Karunanidhi’s promise to enforce prohibition, made just months ahead of 2016 Assembly elections, it has become a key poll plank. While many political parties particularly the PMK claim credit for this development, the real credit goes to anti-liquor activists who have been fighting for it for decades. Their continuous, relentless campaign against liquor at the grassroot level in villages has created tremendous awareness among the people, particularly the women, affected by the liquor consumption of their spouses and family members.
Gandhian Krishnammal Jagannathan (92) is the eldest member of anti-alcohol campaign. She along with her husband, has been fighting the liquor menace for over 60 years and helping families affected by addiction. Another Gandhian, Sasi Perumal, known for his hunger strikes to press for prohibition has been a crusader for around 40 years. Inamul Hassan and P Aruldoss of People’s Movement Against Liquor and Drugs (PMALD) and a number of youths undertook a 3000-km padayatra across the State for 100 days and met a cross section of people. Law College student Nandini from Madurai was on a fast and got imprisoned several times. A host of selfless workers have been striving for enforcing prohibition in Tamil Nadu for long.
While appreciating the role of the PMK in this regard, the activists are of the view that protests of political parties were generally aimed at votes. “Political parties raise their voice for prohibition with an eye on the votes. But for us, societal welfare is paramount,” says Senthil Arumugam of Satta Panchayat Iyakkam, associated with anti-liquor campaign for about 16 years.
Welcoming Karunanidhi’s announcement, they, however, take it with caution. “It is a welcome change of mind from the DMK chief. Let us hope he will do it,” says Geetha, social activist, engaged in anti-liquor campaign for about 26 years. She and many senior activists were imprisoned in 1990 for protesting against ‘pocket sarayam’ (arrack sold in sachet). Asked whether Karunanidhi’s words give hope to activists like her, Geetha says, “There is no need for pessimism. Whoever be the next CM, we will make that leader enforce prohibition.”
Senthil Arumugam goes a step further on ‘what next’ in enforcing prohibition. “The government should form two experts panels — one for exploring alternative sources of income and another for eradicating the menace of illicit liquor,” he says.