Agra: Chimman Lal Jain, a 96-year-old freedom fighter, on Sunday threatened to end his life by jumping into the Yamuna river, if liquor sale was not banned in Agra by October 2, Mahatma Gandhi's birthday.
Leading a group of protestors -- comprising women and children from the Dalit areas of Agra, Jain also threatened to torch shops selling liquor, which he said had destroyed numerous families.
The protestors carried placards with slogans like "Desh Bachao, Sharab Hatao, Bahu Beti Bachao, Sharab bikri band karo" (Save nation, stop liquor sale).
Jain said that when India became independent 68 years ago, there were only 11 liquor vends in Agra. "But today their number exceeds 1,100. So many families have been ruined, women and children left to fend for themselves."
"Women and children are the worst sufferers because all the income goes into liquor and little is left for the family's needs," Jain said.
According to Abhinay Prasad, director of NGO Adhar, over 2.5 lakh people, mostly Dalits, were engaged in shoe-making business in Agra, and studies suggest that the incidence of liquor addiction was alarmingly high amomg this section.
The daily wage of a shoe industry worker comes to around Rs.500. This is supplemented by income from the work their women do at home on contract basis for the shoe factories, stitching uppers.
Naresh Paras, a social activist working with the underprivileged sections of society, said: "The sad reality is that despite the income, the lifestyle has not improved, nor the nutritional intake. Many people begin the day with liquor. Liquor vends are open round-the-clock...."