The women in Dhoolpet want to move away from the business of making gudumba. But the change has been stopped in its tracks by poverty and empty promises
Sarala was widowed by her late alcoholic husband. Her sons aged 6, 8 and 11, all work at Begum Bazaar.
They are unlettered. When asked why aren’t they studying she said, “I am stuck in deep poverty. If we have to survive all of us have to work, we don’t have a choice. If my sons help me with my business then for sure our financial lot will improve but I am scared of the police.
Almost every household in Dhoolpet has a similar tragic story to tell.
Dhoolpet is the main base from where each day thousands of litres of gudumba (hooch) is packed in sachets and taken to various liquor pockets of the City.
This trade has been taking place since the last 40 years and the excise raid is part of their lives. The area has always been in the news as the excise department conducts raids once every month or once in 40 days. Sometimes they destroy the liquor or sometimes they make arrests but nothing changes here. The community promptly forgets what happened the previous night and starts afresh.
“We know that what we are doing is wrong. I lost my husband due to alcohol abuse and I know the pain to live without a life partner. But what can I do?” asks Mitalibai, a community member (inset picture).
To bring them out of this decrepit life the State government in December 2010 introduced a special package to help the people involved in making hooch lead a respectable life. The scheme was aimed to make them self-reliant and earn from legitimate works. But the bureaucracy has been sleeping over this promise.
Another community member Gauribai says, “The government promised me `2 lakh to set up a vegetable shop. Nothing has come yet. If they help me start another business I will quit this trade. Until then I have to continue with it.”
Government employees had come, counseled them and also given them a letter which states that they would give them `2 lakh each to start a self help group.
Most of the women have kept this document safely and have been enquiring about the follow-up of this assistance with the Mandal revenue officer but so far nothing has materialised.
“We do not know anything else apart from how to make gudumba. In our community we are not allowed to go out and work. If we have the permission from the elders we will definitely go out and work but it’s unfortunate that we cannot work outside. We were thrilled when the government told us it will help us set up vegetable shops, tailoring shops and such small ventures but it looks like a mirage,” says Tulsibai.
Besides the government, a leading bank had also approached the community and offered them a loan to start another business. The deal was that the bank would give them an interest-free loan to buy an auto rickshaw but they would have to open an account and deposit Rs.10,000.
Most of the families in the area managed to open accounts and deposited the money with a hope that they would soon be able to start a new life. Much to their disappointment, the bank did not revert, so they closed their accounts and continued with their gudumba making.
“When the excise department men come they hit us and abuse us. Sometime they ask us for bribes. Sometimes they destroy all our raw materials. Who would want to live a life like this? We want a decent living but it is just not possible here,” said Lakshmibai.
Contrary to the common belief that these people make spurious liquor for lucre, the truth is that they get into this business as a last resort. As all of them are women, they have limited access to wealth and little freedom to work outside.
The bank and government have been merely playing with their emotions by promising them a new start but the ground reality is that not just the present generation but the next generation too has been gripped by the deadly business of making gudumba. The situation is such that gudumba has almost become their deity.
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