Gurusharan Chhabra is a man on a mission. He dreams of Rajasthan as a liquor-free state and feels a complete ban would solve many problems. A former Congress MLA from Suratgarh,Ganganagar, Gurusharan is a veteran of hunger strikes. On his 14th hunger strike in Jaipur, demanding total prohibition in Rajasthan, Gursharan started his fast unto death on Oct 2. On his fifth day of fasting at Shahid Smarak i.e on Oct 6, he was forcibly taken away to the Sawai Mansingh Hospital. Before he was whisked away by the police, Iram Tasleem from Rajasthan Post caught up with him.
Tell us about your demands ?
I am protesting to make Rajasthan a liquor free state. Also to strengthen the current lokayukta by strong and effective new lokayukta law. I demand that the new lokayukta should bring under its ambit the entire bureaucracy, police, MLAs, MPs, chief minister, council of ministers and all the other former people’s representatives, so that no corrupt person can find an escape route. It is common knowledge that only small fishes get trapped but no action is taken against the actual ones.
How long do you think you can sustain this hunger strike?
Until my demand of enacting liquor ban in the state is met or till my death.
Do you think it is possible to have complete prohibition on liquor in Rajasthan, like Gujarat?
Yes, it is absolutely possible. During the regime of Janata Party, when I was a MLA, the then Chief Minister of Rajasthan Bhairon Singh Shekhawat had imposed a ban on liquor in the state. At that time, not a single government liquor contract was given. Afterwards liquor continued to be banned under Chief Minister Jagannath Pahadia. The liquor ban was later annulled under Chief Minister Shiv Charan Mathur. Thereafter no serious attempts were made by the successive governments to re-enact the liquor prohibition law. Therefore I hold all of them guilty. If it was possible then, why not now?
What is your formula of getting back the revenue that state would lose, if there is ban on liquor ?
Gujarat has been practising legal restriction on manufacture, sale and consumption of liquor for years. Although Gujarat government has no income from excise, the BJP leaders strongly claim Gujarat as number one state and showcases it as Gujarat model of development. If Gujarat can become the number one state with a restriction on liquor, so why not Rajasthan?
Besides, the revenue which the government gets out of liquor sale in the state is lesser compared to the amount the government spends on the treatment of patients suffering from diseases related to heart, liver, cancer and breathing ailments, accidents and in funding of gratia amount to the family of deceased persons. The government’s claim that state earns revenue from liquor is totally hollow. The reality is to fight elections, political parties need huge amounts of money and liquor from the liquor mafias and businessmen.
The present state government talks about development but corruption is prevalent in all developmental works in the state. At least 30 to 35% of public money goes into commission. Potholes appear on road even before the road is constructed. If government exercises strict control on corruption and commissions, it can earn Rs 5000-6000 crores of rupees which would be more than the revenue they receive from excise.
How proactive do you think this government is towards your demand ?
Current Vasundhara Raje’s government had promised good governance. Instead of good governance, incidents of corruption surface frequently with action against the guilty. Similarly where there is no ban on liquor, crime like murder, rape, domestic violence, suicides, prostitution become common. The present government should take sincere steps in this direction or else state would have to impose ban on liquor under public pressure.
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi says Hindustan is a country of youth, but instead our youth is becoming addicted to liquor, drugs etc.
On 1st April 2014, I had started hunger strike on same demands. After 45 days I broke my stir after we had a written treaty with Raje government which contains signature of two cabinet ministers, finance secretary and excise commissioner in which Raje gave a nod to impose ban on liquor in the state. But unfortunately no action has been taken up in this direction till date by the government.
What would you like to say about support you are getting in your protest?
I am getting support of many people like Dr Kirorilal Meena, MLA. The Meena community is supporting my cause,. Golma Devi, Manak chand Surana, former judge Pana Chand Jain, Congress leader Archana Sharma and many social activists, religious organisation like Jamaat -e-Islami, friends, relatives, and public all are extending their support.
How long have been struggling to get a liquor ban in the state?
This is the 14th hunger strike of my life. I launched my first hunger strike in 1970. I have been on strike in three consecutive years 2013, 2014, 2015.
What is your future plans?
We will spread our protest in the whole state over the next few days. It would be completely in a non-violent manner in the Gandhian way of protest. We will organise rallies, candle marches, public meetings to create awareness and to sensitise people about our demands.