Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao addressed the state Assembly on Saturday, during the resolution to thank the Governor for his address to the joint session of both the Houses of the state legislature.
Among several other issues that KCR spoke about in his speech, that lasted around 90 minutes, the CM also spoke on the issue of ‘kallu’ or toddy in the state.
Toddy or palm wine, is a popular drink in the two Telugu states of Telangana and Andhra, and is mostly ‘tapped’ by people of the Goud community. In many villages, the ‘tapper’ usually serves fresh toddy right under the tree from which they extract it.
“In Telangana, there was a kallu problem. In Andhra, some places they drink it, but not so much. In Telangana, there is a culture. It’s a poor man’s drink. After working hard for the entire day, in the evening, they drink two glasses of toddy and sleep. It’s a habit in Telangana,” KCR said.
He was defending the state’s recent move to increase toddy production and consumption.
However, the CM also made one passing remark, which has left many perplexed.
“In India, we have been reading in some papers, that if you drink pure toddy, you won’t get cancer,”(sic), KCR said in between his speech.
Speaking at length about the issue, KCR also said that they were actively working to curb adulterated toddy, and were quite successful at doing so.
In 2015, the state government was faced with an unexpected crisis, after a crackdown on all forms of illicit and adulterated liquor.
Addicted to the drink for years and decades, several locals began suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms, to such an extent, that they killed themselves.
“The problem was that for many years, chemicals like diazepam and alprazolam were mixed in the toddy to increase its intoxication level…These chemicals are present in anti-depressants and other drugs also, but in quantities as small as 0.25 mg. In the toddy, they’re mixing at least 20 to 25 times as much. So, it drives them insane when the body is denied the drug” Dr Narasimhulu, then the nodal officer for the Gandhi government hospital in Hyderabad, had earlier told TNM.
Many patients who were admitted to hospitals, exhibited psychotic behaviour and screams like that of mental asylums echoed on through the night.
However, the authorities did manage to rein in adulterated toddy to a large extent. For now, the state has made several plans to reintroduce toddy into the liquor market, even in cities, including Hyderabad.
Last month, Telangana Excise Minister T Padma Rao Goud said that the state was ready to procure toddy tapping machines, while adding that he would enhance the ex-gratia amount to the kin of deceased toddy tappers to Rs 5 lakh.
During its recent ‘Haritha Haram’ programme, which asked people to take part in planting trees all over the state, the government also planted several palm trees.
Last year alone, as many as 6.95 lakh palm tree saplings were planted in just a few days of July.
There have also been reports that the state plans to sell tetra packs of ‘Neera’, which is the first stage product extracted from the toddy trees.
The state government has defended the criticism, stating that this will provide a boost to ‘pure’ and unadulterated toddy, which has long been a part of Telangana’s culture.