Members of the Nari Morcha’s 2nd Mile local committee stand in front of the ‘jail’ alongside Peshok Road, 12km from Darjeeling town. Picture by Suman Tamang
2nd Mile (Darjeeling), July 1: The rough wooden structure with a chair placed inside along the busy Peshok Road, connecting Darjeeling to Kalimpong, appears to have cured a whole bunch of men of their fondness for liquor in just three months.
The structure, dubbed “the jail” by the women of the locality, has a simple function. Any individual found drunk and loitering in the village, located 12km from Darjeeling town, is confined to the 5ft by 4ft cubicle for seven hours. They are also made to pay a fine of Rs 500 for the “offence”.
The “jail”, which has been endorsed by the Gorkha Janmukti Nari Morcha, was built on March 10 this year.
“We decided to construct this jail after holding a meeting with the villagers. We also issued a warning to all the people to refrain from drinking both for our political cause and for the wellbeing of the society. So far we have jailed about 15-20 men and it has worked wonders,” said Srijana Tamang, the 2nd Mile local committee president of the Nari Morcha, the women’s wing of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
Every detail of the “punishment” has been thought out in detail. “People get drunk mostly in the evenings. However, we do not take them to the jail immediately. They are confined from 8 in the morning and the women take turn to guard the cell and also escort them out if they need to answer nature’s call,” said Tamang.
The success of the plan is based on the psychological blow it delivers. “I was arrested once and felt really bad when inquisitive people travelling along the busy road kept peeping at me. I have completely stopped drinking now,” said Nima Tamang, a 31-year-old unemployed man.
Initially, there had been some resistance. “But later, all the families agreed to this mode of punishment,” said Tamang.
The Nari Morcha leaders maintain that the idea struck them when they saw drunks taking part in protests and strikes organised over the Gorkhaland demand.
“We are now very happy. The ambience of the village has improved. People have even stopped drinking inside their homes. We need discipline in our movement for Gorkhaland and this is a novel way (to ensure that),” said B.L. Pradhan, a retired armyman, who said he has never indulged in any form of intoxicants.
The Nari Morcha has also requested the “three-four” houses in the locality that used to make local brew to stop doing so. “These people have agreed. In fact, the jail has had such an effect that even people form other villagers do not pass by it when they are drunk,” said Pradhan.
Binay Tamang, the media and publicity secretary of the Morcha, however, said he had no knowledge of the “jail” and added that it might be a local initiative.