A group of women clad in green saree attracted our attention to what womenfolk are capable of achieving in terms of their rights. Famously called the Green Gang, these women from the village Khushiyari in the Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh brought a revolution in the state to wipe out drug and liquor addiction.
They started this initiative at a very personal level first, urging their husbands to give up alcohol. When all persuasions fail they forcefully entered into their houses in gangs and threaten them. This has brought about real, positive changes in the village.
“Men in our village were addicted to drugs to such an extent that they wasted all the earnings. They even started neglecting their farms. Whatever little they earned, they spent it all on alcohol. Ultimately, the main sufferers were children and women. Finally, we decided to step out our homes and fight the drug menace. Now, men don’t even dare to sit under a tree to play cards and idle away their time, like they did earlier,” says Asha Devi, leader of the Green Gang.
The Green Gang came about in December. 2015, initially having only ten members. This has increased to a gang of thirty. The Uttar Pradesh Police has recognized them as ‘Police Mitra’ (Mitra meaning Friend). They are actively helping the police to seek justice and secure rights of women , men and children alike. To them, being a part of the Police force is empowering.
Along with this, they are also working towards developing the infrastructure and promoting healthcare and government schemes in the village.
Asha Devi states that women previously were unaware of their rights because of the prevailing illiteracy. However, what came about as a blessing was the initiative on the part of students from the Banaras Hindu University and Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth who adopted Khushiyari. These students headed by Ravi Mishra, who is a postgraduate from BHU, educated and encouraged the women to speak up against crimes and drug addiction that was a menace in the village. Most of the fund for the development work comes entirely from the pocket money of these students who have started the Hope Welfare Trust to change the lives of these villagers.