At least 2,000 prohibition supporters and activists, led mostly by women, entered Bengaluru on Wednesday after an over 200 km padayatra demanding a complete ban on sale of alcohol in Karnataka.
Though prohibition supporters claim that liquor sales add to deepening agrarian distress, the H.D.Kumaraswamy-led coalition government had hiked excise duties on liquor to fund its ambitious ₹45,000 crore farm loan waiver to help.
“We do not want the government’s alms, it’s free rice or education. We want to work and a ban on alcohol would help us," said Mokshamma, an protestor from Raichur, about 415 km from Bengaluru. Rani, another prohibition supporter who lost her husband to drinking two years ago, said she now had take care of four children because the administration continued to allow sale of alcohol.
Similar campaigns had gained traction before the May assembly elections and claim to have mobilised more people to pressurise the government to implement the ban.
Kumaraswamy on Wednesday said the subject required detailed discussions and that he would not be able to take a unilateral decision.
Kumaraswamy said he would look into the demands, consult with experts and meet representatives before taking any decision.
Supporters of prohibition across the country intensified their demands after Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had called for a nationwide ban on sale of alcohol in December 2017, a short while after his own government successfully implemented prohibition.
Karnataka, and Bengaluru in particular, has capitalised on the high sales of liquor and had reacted in record time to circumvent the 2017 apex court order to ban sale of alcohol within 500 meters of state and national highways. This year, the state has a revenue target of around ₹19,750 crore, including licence fees, from liquor in the current fiscal year, up from around ₹18,000 crore in the previous year.
Raghavendra, a volunteer of the movement, said alcohol of all kind was more accessible to villagers than medicines or agricultural products.