21 June, 2021

Dry, You're Dead

The woman who championed prohibition now loathes it

Dry, You're Dead

In 1991 Keorak, a sizeable, reasonably prosperous Haryana hamlet of 20,000-odd residents made history. A thousand villagers led by firebrand political activist Satya Devi, 55, sat on a 147-day dharna in front of the local government liquor shop. Their demand: close shop. Their motto: rum=ruin, drink=death, wine=vice. They succeeded. The government closed the shop. All Keorak celebrated: Arya Samajis from nearby Kaithal formed part of the 2,000-strong victory procession that wend its way through the village. Grateful womenfolk showered money and flowers. Keorak hamlet had set the example all Haryana was to emulate in July 1996 when total prohibition was enforced in the state. Satya Devi had succeeded.

Six years on she wishes she hadn't. Satya Devi, today lady sarpanch of Keorak, rues the consequences of her prohibition passion. "We've failed. So has the government," she declares. "We removed one legal theka. Now every house functions as an illegal one. Earlier you went to the theka to buy your bottle. Now the theka comes to your doorstep. We had five illicit liquor brewers...

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