“I never send my daughter to run errands on this road. I am scared to walk on this stretch. There is no street lights or police patrolling either. This liquor shop which is bang in the middle of an upcoming residential area and near a school and a temple is giving me sleepless nights,” says Moumita Bhattacharya, a resident of Sarjapur-Atibele Road which is 33km from the city.
The shop in question, Madhu Wine shop is very close to St. Philomena School and a temple. This has become a matter of serious concern for the residents and pedestrians, especially women. The fear of eve teasing and becoming the target of lewd comments passed by drunken customers of this shop are giving sleepless nights to everyone right from the domestic servants working in the residential apartments to the school and college going girls. The matter has reached such magnitude that St Philomena School authorities have dropped the special and remedial classes which they used to conduct after 5.30pm for students appearing for Class X board examinations.
Principal Mamta says, "When we complained to the police and the Social Welfare Department, they asked us to contact the Excise Department. The Excise Department official told us that they have granted license to the bar. They even visited the spot and told us that the bar is not located within 100 metre radius of the school or the temple. Hence, it is legal.”
She adds, “When I confronted Narayan Reddy, the owner of the building accommodating the bar, he said that he wasn’t aware that the tenants were setting up a bar when he leased it out. In fact, even his kids studied in our school at one point. How can he not care about our students’ safety?”
City Express has copies of letters the school authorities have written to the Social Welfare and Excise Department.
General Secretary of the school, V Chandraiah says, "I tried my best to stop this bar from coming up near the school. And I have left no stone unturned in trying to get it closed, but in vain.”
The school authorities and residents are arguing that in this case, the legality is not more important than the safety of people. They claim that the property owner is very influential and enjoys political clout. To add to their woes, this road is pretty isolated with the frequency of public transport being very low.
Moumita adds, “When a woman in her forties has been subjected to eve teasing then one can imagine the plight of the school and college girls who have to walk through this stretch everyday. Not just girls, there are even little boys of impressionable age and you don’t want a bar in the vicinity.”
The bar owner does not even have the Sarjapur Gram Panchayat’s permission to start his shop. Syed Ahmed Afzal, Chairman, Sarjapur GP, says, “This bar was earlier located inside a village. After I took charge last year, I instructed the bar to shift elsewhere. The owner, without informing us, shifted to the current location as he seems to have worked out some kind of a deal with the property owner. I have complained to the Tahsildar around three months ago and have asked him to compulsorily cancel the bar’s license. The Excise Department has apparently given them the permission to this liquor store.”
Another resident, Vishwanath Shankar says, "I ensure that our maid leaves home before 4.30pm. The location of the bar is not ideal at all and there is no adequate lighting arrangement when it is dark. There is a fear of molestation or robberies lurking large.”
When we contacted Sub-inspector Prakash on the matter, he claimed that he hasn’t received any complaint from the Gram Panchayat over the liquor shop.
On eve teasing, he said that no cases have been reported yet. He also said a staff crunch is the reason for not having police patrolling. He added, “I will look into the matter and ensure police patrolling is conducted.”
The bar owner and the concerned official from the Excise Department could not be reached for any comments.