Goans losing their `spirit'

Alcoholics Anonymous, the liquor de-addiction support group, and Swami Ramdev's Patanjali Yog Samiti are counselling and persuading people in thousands to kick the bottle forever. "We get boys as young as 19 years old who want to leave alcohol. We talk to them and get connected to the thought of leaving alcohol," Edmond C, an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), an international NGO, told reporters.

AA has around 66 active groups in the tourist state engaged in reaching out to the people addicted to alcohol. "It's not an easy task. When we speak to the people, we usually go in a group of two or more. Many a time we are verbally abused and sent back," Edmond, a former alcoholic himself, said.

Edmond (67) is one of the most senior AA members and is associated with the NGO since 1982. He got to know about AA when he was in Mumbai. The retired seafarer settled in his home town Margao, where he continued to work with the group. The coastal state, touted as land of fun and fenny (local liquor) has around 9,000 licenced bars and an equal number of unlicenced outlets.

"It's not a difficult task to be an AA member. You need to be honest to yourself and be convinced that drinking habit will lead you nowhere," Edmond said. The NGO offers no medical therapy. The detoxification is initiated through personal experience shared by former alcoholics.

"When someone patiently hears what others went through due to alcohol then he makes a conscious decision and effort not to touch the bottle," Edmond noted. AA's campaign has got a shot in the arm with the Church, which wields considerable influence in Goa, extending support. AA groups often meet in the Church premises.

Renowned yoga guru Swami Ramdev and his disciples in Patanjali Yog Samiti are also making a difference in the lives of hundreds of people who now dread alcohol. "People can achieve freedom from diseases and addictions through yoga. From the time we started our classes in Goa, the liquor consumption has gone down tremendously," Ramdev told reporters during a recent visit to the state.

During his trip to a remote village in Pernem taluka this month, a Catholic boy vowed before him to give up liquor. "Ramdev Baba gave him a chain of rudraksh," a disciple, who was with the yoga guru on that trip, told reporters. Ramdev's movement is taking roots in the state, where yoga classes are held every morning.

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