Pen Urimai Iyakkam and PMALD (People’s movement against liquor and drugs) formed a human chain on 10th March to mark international women’s day and press demands to the state to shut down liquor shops. They demanded that the upcoming Tamil Nadu state election be alcohol free. Around forty women from Pattinapakkam (near Foreshore estate) participated in the human chain. Through testimonies and slogans the women brought out various ways in which alcoholism destroyed women and families: alcohol-induced violence against women, loss of family income, adverse effects on children’s education and futures, and alcoholic men making public spaces unsafe for young women. The women stressed that a gender equal society is impossible when men’s alcoholism is wrecking families.
The protesters said that family incomes were just going to the state via Tasmac shops. They said they do not want freebies during elections. They only wanted elections where people can vote intelligently which requires that elections be alcohol-free. The protesters will give a letter to the Election Commissioner to ban alcohol during polls. They have also done a signature campaign to press the collector to close down the Tasmac shop in Pattinapakkam. Many women said that alcoholism is much harder to tackle because Tasmac shops are present in such close proximity to every housing settlement.
The protesters talked about the different ways in which alcoholism has destroyed family’s incomes. For example, some of the people who were moved to Chemenchery after the floods have already lost their houses, because of men selling off theirs rights to the house to finance their alcoholism. The state could have averted this problem by giving the pattas to the women instead of men.
The women repeatedly talked about the indignity of seeing drunk men in their underwear passed out in the neighborhood. Ironically, a drunk man in his underwear wandered into the meeting (at 5 pm!), and had to be kicked out by the police, illustrating how severe the problem is.
The following are the demands of the protest
1. Close down Tasmac shops right away in order to curb violence agaist women and malpractices during polls.
2. State and central governments should implement complete ban on alcohol all over India.
3. The families of victims of alcohol-related-deaths should be given relief of Rs 5 lakhs and the government should bear the cost of education of the children of the victim.
4. Awareness against consumption of alcohol and addictive drugs should be made part of school curriculum. Programmes for raising awareness about problems caused by alcohol should be conducted for school and college students.
5. The Tamil Nadu government should set up rehabilitation centers for alcoholics in all talukas.
6. To stop the sale of illicit alcohol and addictive substances, vigilante groups consisting of community leaders, representatives of women’s organizations should be set up at village, taluka, district and state levels.
7. Scenes of alcohol and drug consumption should be banned from movies and TV programmes.
Pen Urimai Iyakkam and PMLAD plan to continue this movement against alcoholism. Next Thursday, they plan to have similar protest in a different neighbourhood.