Gadchiroli in Maharashtra is the first district in the country to conduct alcohol-free elections. The recent state assembly elections were held alcohol-free where 200 activists in 1,500 villages worked day-in and day-out for 20 days.
Interestingly, women held a pivotal role in assuming the responsibilities for the ban. The mission was first started in 1993 and the Maharashtra Government introduced the ban after six years of protest by activists from the village.
Dr. Abhay Bang, founder of the Society for Education, Action, and Research in Community Health (SEARCH) started Muktipath in 2016 to support the ban with the support from the state government. Speaking to The Indian Express, he said that currently 600 villages have stopped alcohol supply during the elections and villagers pro-actively volunteered and worked towards implementing the ban.
Before the elections were conducted, women protested by holding rallies to create awareness about the ban. More than 500 villages signed up for the mission while going up to vote. Police personnel raided vehicles to check if they contained alcohol bottles.
All the candidates who appeared for the elections were approached by Dr. Bang to give a written or a video testimony to support the mission. Nine candidates readily gave their testimonies and participated in the campaign.
All the three MLAs who won the elections from the district, Dharmaraobaba Atram, Dr. Deorao Madguji Holi and Krishna Gajabe, supported the campaign and gave their testimonies.
Alcohol consumption is socially acceptable in Gadchiroli, which made it challenging for the activists to fight against it. Since the establishment of Muktipath, the volunteers, especially women, assumed responsible positions to implement the ban.
It is important that other states in the country too take a step to ban alcohol to curb the menace of violence and other malpractices during elections.