Women from Bihar’s scheduled-caste Pasi community who have had to quit selling toddy since the April 2016 liquor ban, as well as teacher job aspirants protested when Chief Minister Nitish Kumar spoke at an election rally in Muzaffarpur on Friday.
Kumar shared the dais with Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Prasad Yadav of the RJD for the first time since their parties joined hands to revive the Grand Alliance as they campaigned for Manoj Kushwaha of the JD(U), their candidate in the December 5 bypoll in Kudni. The election was necessitated after RJD leader Anil Sahani lost his Assembly membership following his conviction in the LTC scam.
When Kumar rose to speak, a group of Pasi women stood up to draw the chief minister’s attention, and job aspirants who have qualified the Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET) and the Bihar Teacher Eligibility Test (BTET) created ruckus—some throwing chairs in the air.
Arti Devi, a resident of Jalalpur village near Muzaffarpur, said, “We have come to demand that the CM should exempt toddy from the liquor ban. We are not against prohibition but want to sell toddy to make a living.”
Devi said the government’s idea of selling neera was not convincing. “Does the government expect us to extract neera at 4am when it is still dark and there is the threat of scorpions or snakes. In any case, we cannot finish selling neera by 8am, after which it turns into toddy,” she said.
The state cabinet recently approved assistance of Rs 1 lakh for those willing to sell neera.
Alok Kumar, a teacher job aspirant, said, “The government has not announced the seventh phase of teacher appointments. We are running out of patience. If the government is really serious about giving the youth jobs, it should fill the teacher vacancies of about one lakh”.
The chief minister, however, did not respond to the protesters and kept his focus on the election. “There are people who try to foment communal tension but see this stage where there are Muslims and Hindus sitting together,” he said without naming the BJP.