KOCHI: Thousands of workers whose fate would have been sealed an hour before Thursday midnight got a reprieve when the Supreme Court allowed bars that employ them to function till the 30th of this month.
It’s a fate they dread to share with 10,000 odd arrack shop workers, who went through a similar ordeal 18 years ago. The seminal event, though hailed by prohibition supporters, pushed entire families into untold misery because promises of rehabilitation made by the state government were not kept.
Take the case of K Satyan who was working as a supplier in an arrack shop in Palakkad and used to earn close to Rs 6,000, a month. When the arrack ban hit Kerala, Satyan’s family, comprising his wife and two daughters, slipped into poverty. He later found a job as a salesman with a rexin leather manufacturer in Palakkad, but he found it hard to meet even the daily expenses. “I had a stroke. The doctors said it was because of all the stress and anxiety. I spent around Rs 1 lakh for the treatment and exhausted my life savings on it. I am still on medication. My daughters are now 24 and 21. I don’t know how I am going to marry them off,” Satyan said. The order to phase out the 5,200 arrack shops across the state was issued by A K Antony-led UDF Government in 1995. As the order was executed over the course of that year and the next, 10,333 workers lost their jobs.
Though they were promised rehabilitation before the government’s term came to an end, what materialised in 1996 was a change in dispensation.