Addiction to liquor and other intoxicants has assumed such serious proportions in farmer suicide-prone Vidarbha that revenue minister Narayan Rane demanded prohibition in five distressed districts of the region. But in a shocking revelation, social justice minister Shivajirao Moghe told TOI on Sunday that the `Vyasan-Mukti' department that is also under his control has zero budget.
"No funds are available for the anti-addiction work in the state. As a result, the department is also defunct. There is no manpower and counselling and rehabilitation work carried out is abysmally low. I have taken up the matter with chief minister Ashok Chavan and requested him to include anti-addiction campaigns in the 100-day programme of the government giving priority to the issue," Moghe, the seniormost cabinet minister, who hails from Yavatmal district, said. A firm policy also needs to be formulated in this regard, he added.
Being a tribal and from distressed district, he understands the havoc that addiction is wreaking. "Heavy drinking has become a social scourge. It has affected life in a majority of families in villages of Vidarbha. May be at times of distress, the drinking increases. But it has disturbed family peace as drunk man beats up wife and creates nuisance in the village.
"It is common experience that law does not help. In districts like Wardha and Gadchiroli where prohibition exists, liquor flows freely as implementing prohibition was not a top priority. There is urgent need to change mindset of the people. Large-scale campaigns and special drives involving NGOs need to be undertaken. I have started the process and will also find out means to raise financial resources for it," said Moghe in a special interview.
Another area Moghe wants to focus on senior citizens. Here again, the government has no policy for looking at issues like social security, health and travel needs of the elderly. The minister has urged the chief minister to include the matter in priorities of the state through the 100-day programme. The minister, in his meeting with OBC Sangharsh Samiti leader and ex-MLA Sudhakar Gangane, has promised to look into the demand of implementing the law on promotions for the OBC employees in the state. The law passed in 2004 in this connections has been in abeyance because of official hurdles.
Social justice department disburses large number of scholarships to students from deprived sections. These Are routed the through education societies and institutions and often reach the beneficiary very late. There is a plan to make the disbursement on-line and credit the scholarship amount directly into the bank accounts of the students to cut the delay. Similarly, the caste validation process will also be computerized through the SETU offices in every district, he said.