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Efforts Underway to Fight Alcoholism Among Tribals

e enhanced to six months.

"Neera contains a number of minerals and salts; acids like ascorbic acid, nicotinic acid and riboflavin; proteins and vitamin C. It has less calorific value, apart from being sweet and delicious. It can give mineral water a run for its money," said A.K. Sharan of KVIC.

According to Sharan, neera can enhance the income of a farmer. One palm tree yields four litres of toddy a day. So if a farmer has 100 trees it would become 400 litres. The same could be sold at the rate of Rs.10 a litre, amounting to Rs.600,000 for the season lasting five months.

Although it makes a lot of economic sense, weaning away the tribals from the toddy business is an onerous task. "It all depends on the commitment on the part of the administration. If the government really wants to counter alcoholism then it should stop promoting foreign liquor also," said Shankar.

Alcoholism is linked to high incidences of crime in the district. According to the state crime records bureau, in 2005 there were 124 murders in the district -- the highest among all districts in the state.

"In more than 50 percent cases, alcohol was a factor," said Avinash Sharma, the assistant superintendent of police, Jhabua. "Tribals are very simple people. But once they consume alcohol they get violent even on trivial issues and use fatal weapons against each other."

The crime rates are very high in certain blocks, especially Alirajpur and Jobat. Toddy palms are found in abundance in these blocks.

A survey by the Adivasi Sewa Shikshan Samiti in 2004 revealed that 10 percent of the tribal population in the district could be termed "heavy drinkers". About 80 percent of the addicts in the district are below poverty line.

"An average tribal family spends between 60-70 percent of its income on alcohol. It was found that if a person is a 'desi' (local) liquor addict, he spends a minimum of Rs.400 a
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