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Efforts Underway to Fight Alcoholism Among Tribals

Chendu, a tribal from Alirajpur in Jhabua district, beat his wife to death. Reason? She asked him to stop drinking. In the same block,// another young man killed his brother with an arrow when the latter tried to extract toddy from the palm trees owned by him.

Often the reasons for murders or fatal assaults here are as mundane as someone's hen entering the neighbour's territory or someone's refusal to lend a 'bidi' (leaf rolled cigarette) to a friend. In all these crimes, either the killer or the victim or both are high on alcohol, reports Grassroots Features.

Alcoholism is taking a heavy toll on the socio-economic life of the tribal population. According to an official from the department of tribal development, the age-old problem of excessive drinking in tribal areas is affecting the new generation too.

"One can see teenagers brewing 'arrack' (local brew) in front of their houses. There is lack of conscious effort from the community to prevent youngsters from becoming hard-core addicts," he said.

This reflects on the literacy rate and high dropout percentage in the district, the highest in the state.

"The attendance in schools also comes down especially during October to March when toddy tapping starts in certain regions of the district. Several students show up for classes drunk while others sneak off for a nip or two of toddy from the nearby palm groves," said Sanjay Solanki, a teacher.

Efforts are underway to counter alcoholism among tribals, though the progress is not very encouraging. Since alcoholism is also associated with starvation and unemployment, the district administration tried an innovative method to make use of toddy to generate gainful employment.

The project started in November 2004 in Bhavari village in Alirajpur. "We gave training to one Bhim Singh and his family, who owned 10 toddy palms, to make palm gur (sugar) out of toddy," said Rajkumar Patha
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