The age old menace of youths indulging in alcoholism still continues to haunt both the parents and the district administrations in Meghalaya. Various localities still have roadside gathering of youths for consumption of alcohol and a few commercial areas selling illicit liquor 24x7 pose a threat to the passerby and are also creating a bad impression for the tourists due to indecent behavior resulting from drinking in public and tourist places. In an attempt to curb such nuisance, Shillong Sadar Police Station started implementing the Meghalaya Police Act, 2010 from June, 2015 and other Police Stations followed suit and have since managed to impose fines to the tune of Rs. 29.58 lakhs on people who have been caught drinking in public places as of April 2016, there is no more records for the following years.
This was revealed through a Right To Information (RTI) report, filed by the Civil Society Women Organization (CSWO) which also revealed that the Sadar Police Station tops the list by arresting 687 persons comprising 627 males and 53 females in such related cases out of which 7 were police and defense personnel. In this regard, a total of 592 people have been convicted by various Shillong Court.
As mentioned, public drinking is an age old threat, where public in most urban areas do not feel safe to venture out after sunset, especially the women folk and the older section of the society to avoid indecent behaviour of the people drinking and playing loud music. The action taken by Sadar Police Station is being applauded particularly by the business community, while others have come openly to support the action and urged other police stations in the state to implement the said Act at the earliest to restore a sense of security and pride of the state as a peace loving one.
The state government had in the past constructed recreation halls in every locality, aimed at engaging the youth in indoor sports and games, however, no inspection was ever conducted if the localities are utilizing the schemes or not, as most of the community halls do not have any sporting activities or articles to help engage the energy of the youth. Most of such halls have turned into locality property, used mainly for Durbar activities, defeating the very aims of the project to help the youth tap their individual talents and not to go astray, particularly into addiction.
The former Chief Minister, Dr Mukul Manda Sangma, went a step ahead, by implementing the Supreme Court Order in banning all wine stores along the Highways, hospitals, religious and education institutions. Yet, the morning walkers still find empty liquor bottles all over the lanes and public places. It also means, the closure of the wine stores did not help in cracking down the drinking habits in public places, in other words, illicit liquor business continues to flourish and the business they do has actually doubled after the ban.
In the past, the Khasi Students’ Union had objected to the wine stores displaying bottles in the showcase, and also selling liquor to minors, yet this did not help in correcting the drinking habit in the society, where liquor is openly sold to all age groups. Besides public drinking at night, there is no prevention or any action taken against drivers (both private and commercial) who openly consume alcohol while driving in the city. Worst so, the empty bottles are being thrown out of the running car itself and there were reports that empty liquor bottles are even discarded in the premises of religious places in the city and tourist spots.
In the city, the anti-social elements have a free hand to carry on their business. In most nooks and corners in the city, drug peddlers can carry on their transactions without any hindrances, empty liquor bottles are seen in every stretch of the roads, more so at commercial areas and tourist spots which only exposes the easily accessibility of liquor in the black markets even after the ban.
Yes the women organization – Seng Kynthei at various localities had also raised their protest against open drinking habits of the youth, so also the religious leaders, but the fact remains that in this competitive world, most of the professionals greatly depend on educational institutions to reform their own children, as they simply do not have time to do so themselves. Whereas, teaching is more a stepping stone for many till they get government jobs, most of the young teachers both in schools, colleges or universities alike are new to the profession and do not hesitate to share cigarettes and drinks with students. Exchange of kwai and other tobacco substances is common and many even go for long drives with students which has encouraged the young students to openly enjoy the bad habits with the support of teachers.
The young teachers, being new can easily adapt to the life style of the students as their age difference is not much, hence be it in the college campus or outside, they meet like friends and share drinks and smoke and have made a mockery of the pious student – teacher relationship by keeping the term discipline at arm’s length.
Secondly, the easy availability of all kinds of banned substances in the state capital, where students from other states studying here have tagged Shillong as ‘Las Vegas of North East’ for the free flow of wine and alcohol, easily availability of drugs and sex workers, smoking all types of intoxicating substances freely without any interference from any quarter.
Recently, hotels and lodges are mushrooming in every nook and corner of the city, even in the heart of the residential areas which is not at all approachable by the tourists. Shillong is known to be the city with alert vigilance of Traditional Institutions, where every entry and exit from the locality needs to be reported to the local durbar. Yet, one fails to understand how there is no restriction on the hotels and lodges in various localities. At the same time the permission is easily acquired from the authorities. Some of them are being booked by the students as hostels, exposing them to all the anti social activities.
There is no denial that the state capital of Meghalaya – Shillong - is indeed the city of crime and sex, where every illegal transaction from arms and ammunition, fake currency to drugs, flesh trade to smuggling, one needs to name it, is being carried out in the open under the very nose of the district authorities. Only few get trapped in the police net, while most carry on with business unhindered.
Shillong is not only the hub of Educational Institutions but also the headquarters for all forms of anti social activities, where illicit liquor is openly available in most localities, Marijuana vendors are present everywhere and in some selected spots within the city and suburbs even drugs are easily available; strangely all are thriving in their business.
How can one not suspect a nexus between the authorities and the anti social elements as it can be seen that even though both the Central and State Intelligences agencies are on the chase day in and out, people with vested interests in the society can easily spread their tentacles of such organized crimes in the state capital, unless all Police stations religiously implement the Meghalaya Police Act, 2010 to flush out all such activities.