Family members of 40-year-old Mohan Kopnar are a happy lot as he is among a handful of alcohol addicts who would be taking a ‘pledge’ in front of their village on August 15 to give up liquor consumption forever. However, this de-addiction programme comes with an added incentive – scholarships for children of those who give up liquor.
These alcohol addicts, residents of Goundare village under Karmala tehsil of Solapur district in western Maharashtra, are part of a novel initiative aimed at persuading people to voluntarily shun liquor and safeguard their health and welfare of family. To dissuade alcoholics from drinking, the Panchayat Samiti of Karmala, in association with a couple of non-government organisations (NGOs), has launched a novel scheme – ‘Stop drinking and earn scholarships for children’ – in more than 100 villages of the tehsil.
The same scheme has encouraged Kopnar to take the pledge of abstaining from liquor. Manoj Raut, the Block Development Officer (BDO), said as per the scheme, drinkers who want to kick the bottle, will have to take a vow in front of their village on Independence Day to never consume liquor again. “As the person strictly adheres to alcohol abstinence pledge, his children will be rewarded with a ‘scholarship’, exactly after a year on August 15, 2023, and the person will be felicitated,” he said.
The BDO said two social outfits – Yashkalyani Gramin Sevabhavi Sanstha and Gram Sudhar Samiti have been roped in to execute the scheme in Karmala tehsil. A circular addressed to 105 villages in the block (tehsil) has been issued to respective gram panchayats to create awareness about the initiative and encourage drinkers to come forward for the no liquor pledge and embark on a new intoxicant-free journey, Raut said.
“Everyone knows the ill effects of alcohol consumption. Besides taking a heavy toll on one’s health, alcohol dependency destroys families. Parents, spouses and children are the worst affected,” said the officer. Raut expresses confidence that the scheme will bring positive results and more and more drinkers from rural areas will ‘voluntarily’ come forward to give up the harmful habit for the sake of their children’s future.
Bapu Daunde, a gram sevak of Goundare, said upon receiving the circular regarding the scheme, they organised a ‘gram sabha’ (village assembly) where people were informed about the initiative. “At the meeting, we received one instant enrollment of a heavy drinker who wishes to stop liquor consumption and secure scholarship for his children,” he said. Daunde said they will be taking out a ‘prabhat pheri’ (morning march) of schoolchildren in the village to create awareness about the scheme and reach out to more drinkers.
Kopnar, while speaking to PTI, said he is a farm labourer and has two daughters and one son. “I have been drinking alcohol for the last several years. During the gram sabha, when the information about the scheme was being given, I expressed my wish to give up drinking and secure a scholarship (for his kids),” said Kopnar. He said his family members – wife, daughters and son – are very happy after he told them about the August 15 pledge to quit drinking.
“I know giving up alcohol all of a sudden is very difficult but for the future of my children and to get scholarships for them, I will strengthen my willpower and stay away from alcohol,” Kopnar asserted. Ganesh Kare Patil, president of Yashkalyani Gramin Sevabhavi Sanstha, one of the NGOs roped in for implementing the scheme, said his outfit will offer scholarships to wards of people who successfully manage to stay away from alcohol for a whole year. “Instead of giving a scholarship in the form of cash, we will provide educational material required by students for the entire academic year,” he said.