Vrindavan, 2017.04.06 (VT with input from Amar Ujala, India Today) In the holy city, the liquor business is thriving.
Legally, Vrindavan is a dry area. But in spite of the law, the booze is coming in. Alcohol is easily available on demand through a network of illegal dealers.
The sadhus and sants of Vrindavan have raised this issue with the government, but until now, it seems no one has paid attention. Amar Ujala reported that when the government and police are notified of such illegal activity, the initial inquiries are not followed up.
And although liquor sale is illegal in Vrindavan proper, there are plenty of government-sanctioned shops in the outskirts and in villages all around Braj. Even the Vrindavan suburbs like Panigaon, Chhatikara and Sunrakh all have liquor shops.
Take the case of Sunrakh. The tiny village has a number of “English” and desi liquor shops, six of them just a short distance from the Chhe Shikhar Temple. These shops remain constantly crowded with patrons, many of them intoxicated. Devotees visiting the temple find themselves disgusted, and at times harassed.
In 2011, the Excise Duty Department of the Government of India itself opened a liquor shop in Sunrakh. Dozens of local women protested. “We villagers feel that the presence of the liquor shop in Sunrakh is creating a disturbance to the peace and our way of life,” said one Sunrakh resident, Ramwati. Others complained that the drunk men who hung out by the liquor shops harrassed the village girls and made it hard for them to even leave the house.
And again, in 2015 an illegal wine shop in Chaitanya Vihar, within Vrindavan’s dry-zone, was given a license to operate by the Excise Department. Local residents torched the shop in anger, withdrawing only after Mr. Sanjay Yadav, the Excise Officer, appeared personally on the scene and promised to cancel the shop’s license.
Mathura, too, is facing its share of problems. Although alcohol shops are not illegal there, most of them are ill-placed. A large number of them are in residential areas, marring the ambience and safety in those neighborhoods. And many of Mathura’s liquor shops are in close proximity to schools and temples, which is against the standards laid out by the law.
For example, there is a liquor shop near the Hanuman temple at Bajrang Chauraha on Maholi Road. Female devotees attending temple services have complained about being harassed by the drunk men who frequent the shop, but nothing has been done to fix the situation. Similar scenarios have been reported at the Baglamukhi temple, the Jain temple in Mathura-Vrindavan road, Shiv Temple at Mathura Junction Road, and Masani Gurudwara to name a few.
In 2015, Mathura MP Hema Malini wrote to then-Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav demanding an immediate ban on the sale of alcohol and meat in the entire Braj region.
“Government records show that the British-era rules are being followed and meat is not being sold in Mathura and the rest of Braj, while the reality is that both meat and liquor are being openly sold even near religious sites. The Uttar Pradesh government should immediately take action against the meat and liquor shops and shut them down, besides declaring Braj a dry zone,” she said.
Shri Rajesh Bhatiya says that with the formation of the BJP government in the state, the demand for removal of open shops around temples has started to resonate.
Perhaps Yogi Adityanath’s crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses will spread to Braj’s illegal liquor shops too.