Attappady 25-Mar-2016 : Around 300 tribeswomen here are on an indefinite agitation under Thaykula Sanghom, a women’s collective, seeking closure of the nearest liquor retail outlet at Anaikatty town. The liquor shop, at the eastern edge of Attappady, does brisk business just outside the State boundary. Hundreds of women living close to the liquor shop have joined hands demanding its shut down.Almost all political parties and social organisations in Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu have also come out in support of the agitation, blaming the liquor shop for the evils plaguing the whole region. NCHRO team visited the site; comprised of Kerala Chapter President Vilayodi Shivankutty, O Shakuntala poetess and teacher, Human rights activist O H Khalil etc.
Though total liquor prohibition has been in force in the Kerala portion of Attappady for 22 years, this particular shop plays a major role in diluting the initiative. During late evenings, illicit liquor is sold publicly at many points on the road from Agali to Anakkatti.
Passengers of most buses from Anakkatti to Agali are drunk. Many from Agali, Sholayur, and Puthur panchayats (where prohibition is in force) buy liquor from this shop and mixing it with local illegal brew. Addiction to spurious liquor has resulted in many deaths in the region.
Insecticide Furadan, sulphate, used torch batteries, and reptiles are used in abundance to brew country liquor. Residents of most of the 187 hamlets of the Irula, Muduga, and Kurumba tribes in Attappady consume such liquor. It is alleged that a lobby of outsiders, supported by contractors-turned-politicians, are making a fortune peddling the spurious drink to indigent tribes.
Officials say the excise office and the police stations are inadequately equipped to implement prohibition effectively, in a difficult terrain with hills and forests that spreads over 745 sq km. They say the outlet in the border village of Anakatty renders prohibition ineffective.
The high number of deaths among the tribal youth and the dwindling number of healthy young men pose a serious threat to the very existence of the tribal community. A total of 116 tribal people in Attappady died due to consumption of liquor available in Anakatti in the last two years. Vilayodi Shivankutty, NCHRO Kerala Chapter President re-iterates NCHRO’s solidarity with Women’s stir and offered all possible assistance and support.