Jammu, January 1: Most people living in Jammu city have no idea what or where Phallain Mandal is. Mandal in the name literally translates to a group and Phallain Mandal is a group of some 50-odd villages on the banks of river Tawi. If you wish to reach the place, you can take a left from the fourth bridge, instead of taking a right for Bhagwati Nagar.
After covering some distance after Sure Chak, you would cross Phallain to reach Phallain Colony where for the last 9 days, men and women have been protesting to get a wine shop closed in their area. At first instance, a single wine shop may not seem entirely problematic in a single area, but Phallain Mandal is a vastly disconnected area where a single wine shop has become a menace difficult to handle.
Phallain Colony is constituted of around 150 houses where ninety percent of the men and teenaged boys have taken to alcohol, all thanks to one wine shop, which in all probability is unlicensed. The shop does not display a license registration number as is required by all shops and was ordered to be closed down five years ago by the then Deputy Commissioner of Jammu. Around that time itself, there were protests locally and the order to close down the shop was the direct outcome.
The wine shop, owned by a person, allegedly from Nanak Nagar in Jammu, is operated by locally employed people who work with no moral obligations. People from all the surrounding fifty villages in Phallain Mandal come to this wine shop in Phallain Colony and as can be expected, this spot is busier than the busy market spots in Gandhi Nagar Jammu.
The road connecting this area is small and is literally blocked due to the heavy rush this shop sees everyday. Bang opposite on the other side of the road is a chicken shop which sees brisk business because of this wine shop. When U4UVoice spoke to the protestors, one local woman, Shashi Devi, from the group of about 50-odd women said,
“The men come from all the surrounding villages and are not scared or ashamed of anyone here. It becomes difficult for us women to even come out of our houses in the evenings as we fear molestation everyday. The men from the surrounding villages gather even more courage from this and many a time unzip right in front of us to urinate.”
She further bemoaned, “Where are we to go? The administration had issued orders to shut down this shop 5-years ago but it is open and we feel this man bribes those in the government to keep his shop. Drunk Men urinate shamelessly looking in our direction. We feel helpless!”
The crowding and these heinous acts by the men is not the only problem here. All the residents of Phallain colony generally agree that ninety percent of the men, including teenaged boys are steadily turning into alcoholics. Almost all the families, says Colonel Somnath Dogra who is a social worker living in the area, are of labourers who work in the farming fields or at construction sites.
“The men, are the sole bread earners and make upto but not more than Rs. 300 per day. Most times, these men drink daily and spend Rs. 200 on the liquor and the chicken shop and it is very difficult to support a family with a meagre Rs. 100,” said Colonel Dogra.
He further added, “Every single day there is a case of domestic violence and inebriated men are out of their senses when they commit such crimes. This has been going for years now and this is why the residents are demanding that the shop be shut down.”
U4UVoice spoke to some more protesting women and the Panch, Sushma showed us to a house where a pale, fragile structure of a woman was put on a bed.
“You see this woman! Her husband was an alcoholic and he lost his life to that shop. She has alone brought up her children and cleans utensils in the houses nearby. The village has lost three men to that shop including her husband and nothing is being done to stop this nuisance. Today this woman’s sons are eighteen and twenty and they go work as labourers themselves. Even her sons are addicted to liquor!”
Sushma further told us that the nuisance of liquor addiction has spread in the younger generation in the village.
“Young boys in school uniforms go and buy small plastic packets of liquor and these people (shop employees) give the pouches with no qualms about it. It is a sin but these wretched men only think of money. Small boys lie to their parents to take money under the pretext of confectionery or stationery and buy liquor with that money. The newest generation is getting destroyed. Just recently a class 9 boy at the Govt Higher Secondary was caught with a pouch of liquor in his bag.”
Our team further went to verify the facts with the Govt. school but the faculty at the school denied any such thing and the principle was not available. One of the faculty members said,
“This is a politically motivated statement to put a pressure on the administration to close down the shop. Though we are not opposed to the idea of the shop getting closed down, we cannot agree to false and affected statements of young boys from our school consuming liquor.”
When our team told this to the residents of Phallain Colony, they screamed foul and alleged that the teachers are lying and have been told by their principal to not give out the truth in the media as it would spoil the image of their school.
The ADC Jammu and SDM of the area visited the area yesterday and have appealed to the villagers to give them a week’s time to verify the facts. They have meanwhile asked the Tehsildar of the area to seal the liquor shop for the time being.