Around 5,000 residents of four villages in Navi Mumbai have demanded that the lone bar in Vahal, near Ulwe, not be allowed to operate
After Kharghar, the villagers of Vahal Group Gram panchayat, near Ulwe node in Navi Mumbai are demanding a liquor-free zone. The tiny settlement of close to 5,000 villagers of four villages have stood up against a restaurant owner, who has a licence for operating a bar.
Villagers outside the restaurant, Rajat, whose owner Vijay Shetty, says he has all permissions in place to start the bar. Pics/Sameer Markande
They have demanded that the bar not be allowed to operate and there should be no sale of alcohol in any way. Vahal is the second village after Kharghar Gram panchayat to protest against availability of liquor in their village. There is not a single liquor shop or bar in Kharghar. Villagers in Vahal are worried that soon this bar will be turned into a dance bar, if no action is taken. Vahal village never had any liquor shop or bar, they added.
Kharghar is liquor-free and the villagers of Vahal group gram panchayat are demanding the same. They feel the bar will have a bad influence on youngsters
According to them, the bar will have a bad influence on the men of the villages, and on the youngsters. The restaurant, opened recently, is also situated very close to the local primary school, so villagers consider it a threat to the future generation.
Vivek Patil of the Peasants and Workers Party of India (PWP), a former MLA from Panvel and who has played a major role in the closure of dance bars in the state, told mid-day, "We have always maintained our stand of opposing sale of liquor in Gram panchayats that are under our party. We will not allow sale of liquor in Vahal too. The owner of the restaurant in Vahal has not obtained a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the gram panchayat, nor from the police, to which we have strong objection."
When asked what made him oppose dance bars in the 2005 state assembly, Patil further said, "My only intention was to stop their influence on youngsters and men. They have affected many families. Similarly, the reason behind seeking a ban on liquor sales in our gram panchayat is to stop the bad effect on the villagers."?
Speaking to mid-day Rajendra Patil, member of the Vahal gram panchayat said, "I was born here and there have not been liquor shops in our village ever. Now as the Ulwe node is developing, the owner of the restaurant has acquired a licence to start a bar. However, we will not allow that to happen and have decided to protest against it. On Tuesday, all villagers along with school children will stage a peaceful protest to stop the bar from starting."
Over 1,000 villagers will participate in the protest and take out a procession today. When mid-day visited the village on Monday, several women expressed shock over the bar and also raised concerns over their safety. A concern is that the bar is also close to a public toilet which is often used by villagers, especially women.
Local school authorities have also shown their support to the issue. "Children coming to our school are bound to have a bad influence if the bar starts functioning. Students from Std IV and above are also participating in the protest which is voluntary," said Indumati Vidhate, school principal.
The owner of the restaurant, Vijay Shetty, said, "It is not a dance bar, but a family restaurant. I have all the necessary permissions in place to run a bar."
Villagers also revealed that this year in January they had a meeting with then Assistant Police Commissioner of the region Vivek Mhasal, highlighting their demand to make Ulwe node a liquor free zone.
Dhanraj Daima, ACP Turbhe, said, "The villagers have approached us. There is a process where women of a village can vote against a bar. If more than 50% of the women population votes against the liquor sale, then with the help of Raigad collector, the bar can be shut in public interest."
Bhajan outside the bar
Villagers have threatened that if their demand is not met then they will sing bhajans every evening outside the bar. “If our demand is not met we will sing bhajans every evening from 6-10 pm outside the bar so that the owner becomes ashamed and shuts it,” said Jagdish Parange, another villager.
There are four villages under the group grampanchayat in Vahal, including Vahal, Bamandongri, Moharave and Jawale, while in Ulwe node there are around 10 villages.
Jyoti Patil, a villager
Many people in our village do not have toilets in their homes, and have to depend on public toilets. Possibility of untoward incidents outside the bar cannot be denied and hence, for the safety of women we want it to be shut.
Seema Patil, another villager
The bar is very close to the school. Children will pass by it. We are concerned about their future as they have a tendency to get attracted to bad influences of the society, which we don’t want to happen. Further, hard working villagers will start spending money in the bar once it gets operational.