Pune, India: Around 6 AM, Khadki Bazaar wakes up to shops glittered with breakfast, steaming chai, and smoke blown out of cigarettes. The town of Khadki, with an average population of 78,000 people, hosts the giant bazaar everyone talks about, a Cantonment Board city containing over 16,000 houses, and several low-wealth communities surrounding the railway line and Bazaar.
Over 8 communities are glued to Khadki which consists of mostly a compilation of one-roomed residences and ‘chawls’. The working-class residents are engaged in a diverse set of occupations like blue-collar jobs in factories and companies, domestic services, driving cars and rickshaws, managing shops, cleaning streets, labour, embroidery, and making ‘dabbas’ (tiffins).
Easy access to drugs may not be normal but comes off as no surprise to the residents who have been witnessing issues related to intoxication for many years now. A menacing issue reported by the residents is alcoholism and its consequences on the communities. “My husband has been drinking alcohol since we got married”, said Mrs. Jadhav.
“Drinking alcohol is an issue prevalent among many men in our communities. They drink all night, come home, yell, fight, and beat all of us (women and children). It is also very harmful to their health. My husband has stopped working. He just can’t, he is too weak and intoxicated. He would drink and fight with me over money that I earn for our kids.”
80% of the residents reported alcoholism as a grievous issue and an important factor leading to violence, specifically, domestic violence, deterioration of health, and mental health issues. The trend nearly hovers around middle-aged and older men. However, with a growing number of alcoholics and easy access to drugs, many adolescents have also become prone to this addiction, as reported by the residents.
“Many teenagers near our homes drink alcohol all the time”, said two 12-year-old boys who wish to remain anonymous. “Many uncles and bhaiyas in our area sell these to the kids at very cheap prices. Few bhaiyas (teenagers) also bullied us in tasting it when we were 9. There are also many shops in the bazaar that sell alcohol.”
The communities of Khadki have been widely spoken about for the extreme violent behaviour of its residents. 91% of residents reported that they have either witnessed or been involved in violent fights on the streets or at homes. “Many of the fights around are triggered from alcohol”, says Mrs. Jadhav. “Because of these instances, violence has now become very normal. The kids also see this and learn from it every day. They think it is the solution to everything.”
Alcoholism doesn’t only affect its consumers but also indirectly impacts the lives of people living in the communities. Kids or school-going students are very easily influenced by alcohol-led violence in Khadki. Moreover, it also leads to issues related to mental health among the kids, who constantly witness the violence at every corner of the communities.
A study points out that the impact of domestic violence on a child’s education is massive. A child’s encounter with domestic violence has great bearings on their stress levels irrespective of the severity of the abuse. Concerns like separation anxiety and early emotional problems can easily emerge in the kids giving room to many physical health issues as well. Emotional effects lead to disruption at school in forms of non-attendance, concentration problems, sleep disturbance, withdrawal, insecurity, guilt, depression, and low self-esteem.
In the past 3 years, alcohol-based negative issues have risen drastically in Khadki. Drugs may not be considered normal, but are present everywhere and so are their alarming impact. After a cycle of holding smashed whisky bottles at night, Khadki sleeps, only for waking up to an early morning camouflaged with smoke whistled out of cigarettes.
Note: The information about Khadki has been confirmed by its residents.