A case story from Northern Sri Lanka.
This case story is narrated by Ms. Padmini Kantharuban, a volunteer who works as a community organizer in the RAHAMA Ittavil Project, in Kilinochi district in Northern Sri Lanka. Padmini is a graduate from Jaffna University and has been trained and employed by RAHAMA to work as a community organizer to work in a project where around 120 families have been re settled recently after the end of war.
Mutthaiah Kandasamy aged 56, originally from Ittavil, was displaced and moved to the Vanni district, as an internally displaced person. He has a family with 4 daughters who are aged between, 26- 11. Among them there are two underage girls. One of the daughters are married and is living separately. Kandasamy is a full time labor wage earner, and his income was around 800/00 rupees of earning pay day. According to him and his family 25% of the income was spent on alcohol and cigarettes. His main alcohol beverages were toddy and arrack both locally brewed and sold at the taverns.
There were several negative impacts created by the alcohol use Kanthasamy says. The impact can be explained as both affecting the social life and economic status, leading to family disputes and poor nutrition.
Isolation from the community, the hate from the family and relatives, the affect on the children’ s education, compelling the girl children to go for work without completion of their education etc are some bad impacts of the habit. More over Kanthasamy says that his own health situation also deteriorated without proper food and nutrition and therefore he struggles very much to continue his wage earning initiatives. The two young children who needs some catch up education to cover up the lost classes and cannot go for such classes due to poverty created by the alcohol. Mother also most of the time became a victim of the alcoholic father who is quarrelling at home all the time.
The family economic management has the biggest impact. In order to fill the gap his wife Yogeswari approached the money lenders and as a result the whole family became in debt to the money lenders. Hence the earning brought by the main income earned has to go the moneylenders to settle the dues. In order to meet the family economy one of her daughters has to be employed in a garment unit at very lower rate of payment to provide family support after leaving the class.
Kanthasamy says the main reason that he was addicted to alcohol, because he was used by his father to go and buy alcohol at a young age. When he became a youth and started to earn all the co-workers in his group got together and contributed money at the end of the day and bought alcohol to share among them.
Kanthasamy doesn’t believe that there are advertisements available in the resettlement areas to induce the alcohol use. Instead the employers use a strategy that by providing alcohol convinces the workers to get work done by poor payment arrangement. The employers use alcohol as an incentive to attract the labor force, and pay poor wages, make larger profits he adds.
Kanthasamy feels that consuming alcohol is not acceptable because it causes a lot of damages to the community life and for future generation. He is now a new man because he gave up, consuming alcohol after working with RAHAMA. The eye opener was, when he found difficulties to find money for the loan repayment, the RAHAMA staff guided him by setting a fund management book for his expenses. They helped him to identify the unwarranted expenses, which gave him not less than 6000/00 Rs in one month by reducing his alcohol consumption. Some time he felt that he was consuming alcohol, to forget his debt burden. When he realized that he has 6000/00 in hand which is a kind of jack pot for him, and he has the solution to his financial problems, he joined the campaign within the village to work with RAHAMA to tell others to follow him.
He doesn’t believe that alcohol companies are influencing the people in his area, but the local tappers who are generous in giving local brews for credit, is a huge problem.The solution to reduce the alcohol consumption among the resettlement area is to work with the population to improve and show them to have a better life without alcohol and tobacco and for them to build the assets, with their own funds in the war torn society.
My experience is that people lack knowledge in our part of the country to know that life without alcohol is much better to improve your livelihood. If I don’t correct myself the situation is worse for my children and so other communities in the vicinity can be approached.