NEW DELHI: Taking cue from the women vigilantes of Andhra Pradesh when they forced the arrack sellers and contractors out of business in the early 90’s, Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis has now decided to deploy women groups in fighting against illicit liquor. About 104 persons died after consuming illicit liquor in a Mumbai suburb last month

Malwani, a northern suburb of Mumbai, saw one of the most disastrous hooch tragedy in recent times when on 17 June as many as 104 men were killed after consuming spurious liquor. Investigators later found the liquor to be a concoction of methanol and water, infused with cardamom for a little flavor. Now under pressure to act substantially, Mumbai CM has already had a number of meetings with women groups to raise awareness and dissuade men in their communities from drinking illicit alcohol, and has also conducted many raids to the dens where it’s sold.

“Following the tragedy, the government has conducted 203 raids,” he said, acknowledging that women had stepped forward to help this action. “We have so far held 702 meetings with women groups,” Fadnavis said. While another BJP MLA Manish Chaudhary said that the idea behind involving women groups is to replicate the ‘Gulabi gang’ model which achieved considerable success in the past.

Already nine police officials including the excise officials have been suspended following the investigation. He chief supplier of methanol, Kishore Patel, has also been arrested.

In an earlier development, Fadnavis government announced a compensation of Rs1 lakh to the families of the dead. The CM also advocated for capital punished for the persons responsible for the tragedy.

The role of women in the past in eradicating the menace of alcoholism has been significant, at least in one case. During the early 1990’s women of interior villages of Andhra Pradesh mounted formidable protests against arrack—a country liquor—as men of their villages have becoming helplessly addicted to it. A series of instances of fighting back by women finally led to the complete prohibition in 1994.Before that, the addiction had even led to a novel form when the liquor had been started being delivered to men’s homes in polythene sachets known as “varuni vahini”, a name coined by then Chief Minister N T Rama Rao.