Tag Archives: alcoholism

Tribute: Sasiperumal

1 Aug

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from: http://www.jeyamohan.in/77530#.VbxhtfOqqko

Translated by: Gokul

—————————————–

While waiting for a bus today morning, I noticed a lungi-clad, middle-aged man enter a mango orchard with a helmet in his hand. Thinking it was a bucket that he held in his hand, I watched him closely. He placed the helmet on the ground and took out two bottles of rum. He squatted on the ground and poured the rum directly into this mouth. He didn’t even add water – and had nothing alongside it as well. Gulp, gulp. Five minutes. After retching once, he plucked a leaf nearby and chewed on it as he came and started his scooter that was parked near me.

A familiar scene. But it kept troubling me. When I visited Ambasamudram last year and went to the villages there, I saw men sitting idle in almost every house. The womenfolk were leaving for work. ‘His eyes wobble after the 10 o’ clock sun, sir, and he faints. That is why he doesn’t go to work’, they said. Liquor. Money for drinking? ‘He earns something. Beyond that, he snatches whatever I have’. The villages were full of these people afflicted by drink, sitting with swollen eyes and sunken cheeks, . The fertile land lay useless without any agriculture. The land which was immediately next to the road waited, transformed into ‘plots’.

The entire politics of this place is run on liquor funds. All free gifts (from the government) are funded by TASMAC. The corruption in TASMAC is the celebration of politics. TASMAC is completely destroying Tamil workers. Chemicals of the worst form are sold by the government as liquor here. The government itself orders and forces its employees and officers to increase the sale of liquor. The total revenues from liquor is published as some sort of achievement by the government. Early in the morning, one can see people sitting at the entrances of TASMAC shops waiting to start drinking. In this land of many more crores of workers, one cannot find a single person to work. One has to bring them from Bihar and Bengal.

Nobody speaks about this extrordinary repression and exploitation here. One group of apologists claim that liquor is part of ancient Tamil culture. Another group writes a few broken lines in the name of poetry and then drinks in celebration. Another group is content to wait for the grand revolution. Be it Tamil nationalism, Dravidianism – TASMAC is the venue for every sort of celebration. Drink has created a situation where women cannot go unaccompanied in any public space in Tamilnadu. In buses, in tourist places – drinkers make merry everywhere breaching all bounds of decency. Those who do not drink are their hostages.

Drink has always been here though. It was kept under check as it was designated a social evil through the influence of Jainism and Buddhism. It was during the British rule that they made it a commercial venture. The establishment of liquor shops enabled the systematic exploitaiton of workers. The British discovered that the auction of liquor shop licenses was an important source of income for the government. One can see the spectre of drink in the villages in the short stories of that era by writers like Pichamoorthy and Pudhumaipitthan. It exploited the deprived classes the most.

sasi

Seeing how drink wrecked havoc with the village economy and the lives of the deprived classes of India, Gandhi placed the struggle against drinking as one of the central activities of the freedom movement. Gandhi’s picketing of toddy shops was the only nation-wide movement against drink since the era of Jainism. It created significant awareness against drinking across India. In independent India, the governments that were formed subsequently found the British method of exploitation advantageous. They targeted the super normal profits from liquor. M. Karunanidhi officially introduced drinking in Tamilnadu, destroyed all social checks against drink and drove an entire generation into it. If he holds a place in Tamil social history, it is this.

Today, any voice against drinking is laughable for both the educated youth and the uneducated masses. But even today the voices from Gandhian age rise against drinking. It emanates as an expression of Gandhian obstinacy, deprived of support from either the people or the media. It is the voice of a conscience that refuses to die out in our society. It serves as proof that however it is quelled, Gandhism shall stay alive.

The news of Sasiperumal’s death reached today. He had collapsed and died during a demonstration against drink at Marthandam nearby here. A death that he would have desired. In a sense, this completes his life. But his voice never could converse with anyone’s conscience. The time was not ripe for that. In the intellectual discourse of this country, it is quite possible that Sasiperumal’s sacrifice will remain unnoticed by the media.

I got the chance to meet Sasiperumal and receive his blessings in an event organized by the Tiruppur Aram Foundation. A simple man who didn’t speak much. He had clearly set out goals for his life. He had realized Gandhi through action. It is infact the best way to realize Gandhi. And through that, to become Gandhi himself. My tributes to Sasiperumal, whom I saw as Gandhi himself.

J

Advertisements

The Struggle against ‘Alcoholism’

9 Mar

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from:

http://www.jeyamohan.in/?p=34880

Translated by: Gokul

————————

J,

You might have read in the news about a Gandhian named Sasiperumal who fasted till death asking for complete prohibition. I expected you to write about it. Is it right to compel a government by fasting for such a demand? Is it Gandhian? Is it not interfering in the personal rights of another person?

Moreover, can we stop alcohol in today’s situation? Is it practical to have complete prohibition? Fasting like is without considering these aspects is a publicity stunt, isn’t it?

Ganesh Periyasamy.

————-

Dear Ganesh,

Whenever a social movement happens, I find many people who find a strange happiness by writing something or the other against the movement on the internet. Opinions in the likes of – ‘That movement was wrong’, ‘Had it not been like this and etc., we all would have come to the streets and we would have settled the matter once and for all!’ etc.

When Anna Hazare started his movement against corruption, a majority of people found petty faults in his movement and abused him. They chuckled that he had failed. But none of them even lifted a finger after that against corruption. They couldn’t even gather ten people on the street after that. The Left-or-Right political parties here cannot take even a small step against corruption. Those who sided with them and criticized the people’s movement started by Anna Hazare should be ashamed of themselves if they have a conscience.

Hence there is no point in these sort of hair splitting arguments. These can be news-cum-entertainment shows on television. It might help those who appear in such shows to show themselves as political fighters.

I have written a bit extensively on what is Gandhian struggle. I would repeat it like this: its first stage is to present a righteous demand to the people in strong terms. The next stage is to gather public support on the basis of that demand; to make as much people as possible stand up in support of the demand. Having organized a strong front, to engage in talks with the opposite parties and to accept practical and immediate compromises as a solution is the third stage. Having made sure the success is there to stay, to again organize one’s front and to start the next step of the struggle for more success is the fourth stage.

Hence the first stage is to campaign by placing one’s stance based on righteousness in front of the people. The objective of Anna Hazare and people like Sasiperumal is this campaign alone. It is not stubbornness. It is the way of a wise person expressing his stance strongly. ‘This is my strong conviction. I am even willing to stake my life for this’, he says. It is not merely an opinion. Hunger-strike-till-death is a way to show that he is staking his entire life for this opinion.

If it were to become a people’s movement when people start organizing themselves around this demand, if it were to open up meaningful dialogue with the existing government, this might reach a compromise. This point of compromise will be the midpoint between a group which maintains that drink is necessary and another which says that drink should be abolished completely. This compromise will essentially say that drink has to be controlled in our society. Anybody with even the slightest social awareness will accept that this is very important currently.

That drinking is permitted in India is a half-truth. The truth is that the government has liquor sales as its foremost task. Politicians are involved in the liquor trade undercover and are earning crores of rupees. Government works as a henchman for this. For the sales of liquor, the Government has banned the sales of natural liquor like toddy. It establishes liquor shops extensively across the country and grows them. The government itself campaigns for liquor, which ruins health, family health and the economy of the country.

Our governments’ have the taxes and profits from liquor sales as their foremost source of income. With that money, our politicians and bureaucrats are becoming wealthier by creating fake welfare schemes to indulge in major corruption scams. Our government encourages drinking for this. It sets targets for liquor sales and campaigns for its growth.

The Government sets the highest tax for liquor. It is said that this helps reduce the sale of liquor. Instead it leads to grabbing the majority of the income of the average family man. Today, more than half of the income of an average family is spent on drink alone. Our governments grab several times more money as liquor sales than they give us as welfare schemes.

Yes, drink is not entertainment here. It is not celebration. It is not a habit. Nor is it individual’s right or freedom. All these perspectives are limited. Today, drink is the method through which the government here exploits the wealth of its people effectively. This is the central perspective.

Hence the struggle against drink is not against entertainment, celebration or against individual’s freedom. It is against the government which drinks the blood of its own people. Anybody who understands the current Tamilnadu society even a little bit will say that this is essential. They will consider this as a voice of protest that definitely needs to be raised.

Can we completely prohibit liquor? Even when prohibition was in vogue here, it was not banned completely. Drinking was allowed under the ‘permit’ system. Hence prohibition is in reality a way to control and watch over the drinking habit. Through prohibition, it will never come to pass that liquor is completely unavailable. Instead, it will become difficult to procure. There will be constraints. This will check the development of the drinking habit and its spread. During the sixties, M. Karunanidhi who revoked prohibition and opened liquor shops in every street laid the foundation for turning Tamil society into a crowd of alcoholics.

We can see that when any drug is easily available and when social sanctions against it are removed, it leads to its uninhibited growth. The campaign for the spread of any drug can only lead society to grave disaster. Tamilnadu and Kerala are being destroyed by liquor barons. People need to be saved from them. For this, liquor has to be controlled. These movements seek just that.

People who speak about individual freedom do not usually realize that nowhere in the world was any drug allowed without any check whatsoever. Even in America where drink is a commonly accepted cultural aspect, there is a ban on under-age drinking. That too, a real ban which is maintained scrupulously in practice. Here there is no ban. My teacher-friend spoke of seventh-standard boys coming to class after drinking in TASMAC. They argue that this is about individual freedom. In the matter of drink alone, I think we will end up teaching democracy back to Europe!

In our society where a majority of the people are poor, where the entire family depends upon the earnings of the man of the house, when the government is ditching all sorts of welfare schemes in every department including medicine and education, drink is only leading to social disaster.

Drink has to be controlled. What controls are to be placed can be found out step by step. As a first step, liquor shops can be closed during the day time by an order. Next, it can be laid out that people who drink have to get themselves registered and need to have a permit. The government can attempt to treat alcoholics who drink enough to spoil their health. There are several ways of going about this.

Today, south India is in danger of being destroyed by liquor. We need large scale people’s movements to stop this. We are not up against democratic governments. Today’s governments are conducted by politicians who are in the business of selling liquor. Hence only intense struggles can yield at least a little success.

In the midst of people who do nothing, the protests of people like Sasiperumal is worthy of praise. But it is more likely that in our current scenario where idiots who rant about everything are seated as intellectuals in important positions, his sacrifice too will be trampled upon and fade away as some contemporary comedy.