Notorious for brewing hooch and seething alcoholism, Chainpurva now sleeps peacefully

Infamous for brewing illegal liquor, and where alcohol addiction and domestic violence was commonplace, Chainpurva village in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh, stepped up and changed course. Here’s how a police official lifted the fog of alcohol with the help of the village women.

Gaon Connection
| Updated: January 30th, 2022

Chainpurva is no different from a thousand other villages in Uttar Pradesh. It stands near the Bhaghar Jheel with narrow, dusty, none-too-clean lanes, small, nondescript homes with peeling walls, and open drains. But this unremarkable village in Barabanki district, embarked on a remarkable journey. From being known for illegal alcohol brewing, seething alcoholism and the consequent domestic abuse, it turned the corner, shed its disrepute and is today walking a different path.

Gaon Connection brings you Chainpurva’s story in collaboration with the World Health Organization South-East Asia (WHO SEARO), as part of its social campaign to raise awareness about alcoholism and its terrible impact on both physical and mental health, through the series Meri Pyaari Zindagi.  

Also Read: Bihar hooch deaths: 16 men from Dakshin Telhua village lose their lives after consuming spurious liquor

“My classmates at school taunted me about my village,” Shubra, a young resident of the village said. This was because most of the households in Chainpurva were notorious for making, selling and drinking illegal liquor. 

“Our menfolk who made liquor were also addicted to it, and as a result it led to quarrels and a lot of violence at home. They came home drunk, beat the children, beat their wives…” This was the refrain of the womenfolk in the village, who tried hard to keep the hearth burning doing sundry tailoring jobs or sometimes joining their men in making the liquor. 

The turning point

When Aravind Chaturvedi was posted to Barabanki as Superintendent of Police in 2020, he was well aware of the challenges he faced. He did not hold out much hope of making any dramatic transformation in Chainpurva.

“Of the 125 families, 123 families were occupied in brewing illegal liquor. It is difficult to reverse habits formed over three decades. So, I did not think any big change would occur,” the police officer told Gaon Connection

But life is unpredictable. Chaturvedi called for a chaupal or a village meeting where he invited men and women from the village to attend and encouraged them to share their stories and problems. This triggered a chain of events that had a long reaching impact. 

Rama Devi, a resident of Chainpurva, said she would never forget that day. “We were apprehensive. Most of us women did not want to go. But a few of us mustered up the courage and attended that meeting. Many of the women stood up and spoke, which was unheard of,” she said.

Chaturvedi recollected the words of one of them. “At the end of the chaupal, a woman stood up, and said: ‘your words were like a dream. But now, I have to return home, to work till my back breaks, to make sharaab and earn sixty rupees with which I will buy rice and vegetables to feed my children who will otherwise go to bed hungry. I will also remember to keep some of that money aside to repay the debt I took to treat my unwell child…’ ”. 

That was the stark reality. People needed money to survive, to feed their children, take care of the sick… Chaturvedi described that  chaupal as the ‘turning point’.

Also Read: “De-addiction is a process not an event”: It took Hemant Giri years to find his way out of an alcoholic existence

Beeswax diyas brighten up lives

He and his team decided to set short, middle and long term goals of development for the village, and tried to provide alternative sources of income, especially to the women. 

Seven self-help groups were created and 75 women signed up. With the help of Nimit Singh, a young beekeeper, they designed a training capsule where women were taught to make diyas with beeswax, just before Diwali. 

The women made about five and a half lakh diyas that were then marketed.  Instead of the thousand bucks the women earned a month from the illegal liquor, they now could earn up to Rs 16,000 making beeswax diyas. 

Also Read: ‘Sharaab cheez hi aisi hai, na chhodi jaaye’: Neelesh Misra pens a powerful poem on alcohol abuse — WATCH

The change in Chainpurva was almost instantaneous. Today, there is a palpable optimism in the air. Relatives of the village inhabitants who had kept away from the village that did ‘bad things’ began visiting again. 

“The diyas lit up our lives too,” said Shubra. 

When Gaon Connection asked the women what was the biggest change in their new lives, the expected response was not, ‘we have more money’ or ‘we are earning an honest livelihood’. “All that is there of course, but the best thing to happen to us is… After years, we have begun to sleep peacefully.”  

Written by Pankaja Srinivasan.