“Its not always necessary to be strong, but to feel strong.”
― Jon Krakauer
A village “Koi” in Korba , Chattisgarh, having a population of just one thousand was witness to daily incidents of drunken husbands beating and abusing their wives and children, and creating nuisance scaring people.Neighbourhood rivalries leading to fierce quarrels were common. People were being alienated because of disputes. Oblivious of the future of their children, when the head of the families were busy making merry, the children also took to the ‘bottle’. It was not an uncommon sight to find youngsters drifting away from their studies and getting addicted to drinking.
It was in these trying circumstances that in 2011 thirty five ladies of this aadivaasi village, decided to tackle this menace head on. They formed three self-help groups in their area named ‘Garima’,’Jai Ambe’and ‘Ashiana’ The command of ‘Garima’ is in the hands of Pushpa Bai, Jai Ambe is headed by Asin Bai,while ‘Ashiana’ works under the leadership of Pancho bai. They are prudent enough to include three elders of the village. This was done to have their support when faced with resistance from the men folk. The initial efforts were met with a lot of opposition, but they did not give up hope. They used to break the earthenware vessels used to prepare ‘mahua’ liquor in the households, and warn the people against the ill effects of drinking. When persuasion did not seem to work, they formed a ’gang’. It was christened ‘Haryali gang’ because of the association of the ladies with a NABARD project which spread greenery in the area. The villagers are being encouraged to grow seasonal vegetables in their kitchen gardens. To make people independent anyone owning one acre of barren land in the village is encouraged to grow cash crops like cashew, which will start bearing fruits in about two years.
There are three ‘mohallas’ in the village where these women activists have inculcated awareness among the people. If anyone is found in a drunken state, the people produce them before the ‘Haryali gang’The gang had decided the penalties for various offences, in consultation with the village elders. In the first instance if someone is found drunk, he is fined Rs 1000 to be paid immediately or within seven days.If the same person is found drunk again then the penalty is doubled. However if someone is found creating nuisance in the house or village then he is fined Rs 2000.If someone is distilling liquor or selling it, then the penalty is Rs 20,000.However if someone does not pay the penalty then he and his family is ostracized and boycotted by the villagers. Till now in 21 cases a fine of Rs 25,000 has been collected. The amount so collected by way of penalties is utilized for help in marriages, religious functions and even lending to the needy women of the group at very nominal rate of interest.
The aim of ‘Haryali gang’ is to make the village free from drunkards make the ladies self-dependent by providing them means of self-employment. They pledge to continue this movement for a lifetime, and also spread it to other villages in future.