Gadchiroli was perhaps the first district in the country to put the idea of alcohol-free elections forward. In a mission to make the recently-concluded Assembly elections alcohol-free, 200 activists in 1,500 villages of Gadchiroli district worked 24×7 for 20 days.
The mission started years ago, in 1993, when, after six years of protest, the Maharashtra government introduced an alcohol ban in Gadchiroli district. To turn the ban into reality, Dr Bang, with the support of the state government, started the programme Muktipath in 2016. As part of the programme, the sale of alcohol in villages was stopped with the help of the villagers themselves. As of now, 600 villages have implemented the ban on alcohol successfully.
This year, the experiment was first practiced during the Lok Sabha elections, Dr Abhay Bang, founder of the Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health (SEARCH), told The Indian Express.
In the run-up to the polls, more than 500 villages passed a resolution and decided to conduct alcohol-free elections. Women held rallies to generate awareness. Police also started investigations on vehicles carrying alcohol inside the district.
Dr Bang had appealed to all candidates to release a testimony, either in written or video form, for their support for an alcohol-free election. Nine candidates gave their support and agreed to the resolution, said Dr Bang.
In the video, the candidates said they will not distribute alcohol during elections, expressed their support for the ban on alcohol and said they would strive for proper implementation of the alcohol ban. All the three MLAs who have been elected from the district — Dharmaraobaba Atram, Dr Deorao Madguji Holi and Krishna Gajabe — have given written as well as video commitments to support prohibition. While implementing the programme, some important challenges were observed. One was that the consumption of alcohol is socially accepted among tribal people in Gadchiroli district. But in the last three years, the villagers, especially women, have assumed an important role in implementation of the alcohol ban, said Dr Bang.
Ahead of the state assembly elections, 120 gramsabhas of 287 villages made a resolution for the candidates, that included their support for the alcohol-ban, a pledge to not drink themselves, and not use alcohol before and during the elections.
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