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Pradeep Pattanayak

Women in Odisha account for 4.9 per cent of the total alcohol consumers in the State. Interestingly, women in the rural areas of the State outnumber their urban counterparts.

Sounds unbelievable! But, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 report, recently released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, claims so.

The NFHS-5 report states that the number of liquor addicts is increasing more rapidly in rural areas than in the urban areas of the State. The most startling revelation is that in rural areas, more women than men are getting addicted to spirits.

In urban areas, 22.7 percent men belonging to 15 and above age group are consuming liquor. Whereas, in rural areas, 30.2 percent men belonging to the same age group have fallen victim of liquor addiction. And if the number of women addicts, particularly in rural pockets, is taken into consideration, it is a matter of great concern. While the women liquor addicts comprise 1.4 per cent of the total consumers in urban areas, the share of their counterparts in rural areas is whooping 4.9 per cent.

This revelation has led the social organisations working relentlessly to make Odisha liquor free to feel that all their efforts have gone down the drain. They held the State government squarely responsible for such an ignominious trend.

“For this dubious distinction the State has earned, the State Government is responsible. We the people are also responsible to some extent. We shut are eyes to women resorting to liquor consumption. This apart, the anti-liquor campaign also lacks the required momentum as we are yet to enlist the required number of dedicated volunteers,” observed Padma Charan Nayak, president, Milita Odisha Nisha Nibarana Abhijana (MONNA).

In order to make the State dry, in 1956, the government had brought in ‘The Orissa Prohibition Act, 1956’. For the government’s failure in framing the rules, the act is still to see the light of the day, said Arun Kumar Buddhia, a senior advocate of Orissa High Court who had filed a PIL in Orissa High Court in this connection.

“In response to the PIL, the government, in an affidavit, had said that the court can’t interfere until and unless the government’s rules and decisions have faults or they hampered a person’s basic rights. We are examining it and January 27 has been fixed for the next hearing,” said advocate Buddhia.

Speaking on the issue, Sudarshan Nayak, former Excise commissioner, said, “The present government’s intention is to earn more revenue, so it is encouraging liquor sale.”

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