Apprehensive of a proliferation of liquor vends along their once peaceful rustic village, the villagers of Varconda-Nagzor– the first village to the new Goa International Airport at Mopa, have resolved that they will not grant any permissions for new liquor vends.
The resolution, which was adopted by the gram sabha (village council) on Sunday, resolved that the panchayat would not grant any licences for fresh liquor vends and would also ask existing vends to shut down.
“The resolution was adopted by the Gram S=abha and was approved unanimously. However, we will seek a legal opinion on this matter before proceeding especially when it comes to those liquor sellers who are already operating with a valid licence,” village Sarpanch Gauri Josalkar said.
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The once sleepy rural and predominantly agricultural village has begun to witness increased activity with the opening of the new airport atop the plateau of the village for which, the villagers have lost substantial tracts of grazing grounds.
The village has eleven bars and liquor stores owing to a liberal liquor policy, that dates back to Goa’s days as a Portuguese possession, where each village evolved to have a ‘taverna’ or watering hole that served neat locally brewed alcohol along with a salty, spicy snack as an accompaniment.
The policy of low tax on alcohol continued to this day and served to position Goa as an ‘alco-tourism’ destination.
If followed through, Varconda will be the second Goa village to go against the current and rid itself of the sale of alcohol. The honour of being the first went to the Surla hamlet located in the Thane-Dongurli village panchayat deep in the Western Ghats when in 2018, the village decided to ban the sale of alcohol and shut down the existing bars and liquor shops.
Surla is located on Goa’s border with Karnataka, 80 km from the capital city, and is so remote that the only motorable access lies across the Western Ghats after passing through Karnataka.
Its proximity to Karnataka and the fact that liquor is sold at Goa’s cheaper rates, bring in drinkers from villages in the neighbouring state, who flock to the village in large numbers only to drink cheaper booze.
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“There was initial opposition to the move to shutter the liquor businesses, however, the decision taken by the panchayat was upheld by the court and still stands to this day,” Shantaram Gaonkar, a local villager, said.
“Today we are thankful for the decision taken back then,” he added.
Across the state, panchayats are grappling with the problem of waste generated by bars and liquor establishments, but have been hesitant to crack down owing to revenue earned from the establishments.