Toddy tappers protest against ban in Bihar

Patna, April 18 (IANS) Hundreds of Bihar’s toddy tappers on Monday protested against the ban on sale of the drink, the main source of their livelihood.

As mark of their angst, they drank toddy in public place.

“We have begun our protest and it would intensify in coming days as ban on sale of toddy hit thousands of toddy tappers, mostly belonging to Mahadalit caste-Pasi in the state,” said Ajit Kumar Choudhary, president of Pasi Ashmita Bachai Sangarsh Samiti.

Police detained dozens of protestors for violating the state government’s ban on consuming of toddy in public place.

“We have detained them when several toddy tappers including women not only brought toddy, they drank in public,” a police official said.

After thousands of ‘desi’ liquor shops were closed in rural Bihar and Indian made foreign liquor shops in urban areas following a total liquor ban effective from April 1, the Nitish Kumar-led Bihar government has banned sale of ‘toddy’ also.

Since then it has evoked protest with Pasi community up in arms against it.

Nitish Kumar on Sunday refuted the opposition charges that with toddy-ban, the state government had deprived the Pasi community of their livelihood.

“I want to know how long would the Pasis climb up the palm trees to tap toddy. The Mahadalits are largely turning towards education and other professions. Their outlook have changed and want to develop. In fact they want to climb up much higher in the field of education,” the chief minister said.

For millions of people in rural Bihar — where toddy, locally called ‘tadi’, is considered the poor man’s beer — the government prohibition on its sale came as a bad news.

For ages, toddy has been a favourite of villagers as a natural drink from the palm tree.

According to the Nitish Kumar government’s decision, anyone found selling toddy would be arrested. But the government has no objection if anyone is skilled enough to tap toddy on his own for self-consumption.

The former chief minister and president of Hindustani Awam Morcha Jitan Ram Manjhi has opposed the toddy ban, saying it was wrong to ban sale of toddy in Bihar.

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