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Efforts Underway to Fight Alcoholism Among Tribals

k, the district collector of Jhabua.

The logic of the administration was - a family with 10 toddy palms involved in making gur can earn up to Rs.16,000 a season, while through sale of toddy it can earn only less than half that amount.

The officials in the district administration thought that since gur making was more profitable, more and more tribals would change over from the toddy business. "This would not only improve their financial situation but also reduce the number of crimes in the area," said Pathak.

However, this did not happen. Although Bhim Singh is very happy with his newfound enterprise, there are not many takers for it among his community.

The district administration has managed to convince only three more families to pursue gur-making. One reason for the failure of this project was the tribals' love for toddy. "No one wants to leave toddy," said Shankar of Khedut.

But many people feel that if effective marketing strategies were in place the new enterprise could have done better. In states like Orissa and Karnataka, it is catching up well.

Despite the setback in the gur-making project, the district administration has not lost hope. It is encouraging tribals to sell fresh, unfermented toddy for making 'neera', a health drink. Unfermented toddy is very sweet and healthy. But fermented toddy contains 50-60 percent alcohol, making it a highly intoxicating beverage.

"We are working on this project. Our effort is to encourage more and more people to sell toddy for making neera so that there is a shortage of toddy for making alcohol," said Pathak. The administration has approached the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) for processing and marketing neera.

Sources in KVIC say that it is working on the proposal. With suitable technological intervention as prescribed by the Pune-based National Chemical Laboratory, neera's shelf life can b
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