When we think of Jharkhand, what instantly clouds our minds are forests, waterfalls and a lot of natural beauty. It is a state that is comparatively new, having been founded in 2000. The main goal behind the formation of the state was the fact that the local tribal communities would be able to prosper and that they would take a leap towards development. While that motive is yet to be achieved in its true sense, there has been another development that is interesting to say the least. 

Handia is a local alcohol that is consumed by many tribal communities of the country. It is made with rice, after fermenting it for days and adding toxic herbs to the potion. It is mainly consumed in Jharkhand by the Munda and Santhal communities, both of which claim that it was originally their tribe that made handia. Nowadays, various people from other tribes and communities also make, drink and sell handia and it has become a rather popular drink, both for the locals and for the tourists. And there is a very niche group that has catapulted to financial independence due to this. Let us see who and how.

Rice beer is popular in many parts of the country | Instagram - @beautifulnortheastindia

The one segment of people who have benefitted from handia sale is the tribal women. If you roam the streets of Jharkhand, looking for local liquor and see a woman sitting beside the streets, with a pitcher, you do not need to look any further. The woman is most definitely going to be a handia seller. There are several families where the woman of the house earns a major chunk of the money all because of handia and its sale. The main advantage of selling handia is that it is a one-woman job. All you need is a handi or pitcher, rice starch and herbs that are very easily available. At minimum cost and minimum labour, the women can make, pack and sell handia and keep all the profit for themselves. Now, this is a deal that is good enough for most of these women, who do not get the opportunity to get an education and fall back on an alternative mode of employment. 

But behind all of this empowerment, there is a dark side where these women are actually falling into the vicious circle of abuse too. The very handia that they sell to run their families is breaking their homes by becoming an addiction in men. This is a complicated situation for everyone involved as the addiction cannot go but the expenses have to be taken care of. Although, irrespective of what is happening on the front of addiction, the fact that these women have navigated a way to sell handia and send the next generation, their children to school that would eventually help develop the entire community is praise worthy.