Speaking to reporters during Children’s Phagwa celebrations at the Tunapuna Hindu School, Maharaj pointed to a link between alcohol abuse and domestic violence.
He said although Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other groups have been doing a tremendous job in assisting alcohol abuse victims, the State should play a more active role through the provision of funding to such organisations.
“I think they deserve help and I think the State should invest some money in them because they are doing a good job,” he said.
Maharaj said the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha had made all of its schools and temples available to Alcoholics Anonymous “and I have seen successes.”
“When they (AA) are holding meetings, people have been transformed. As a matter of fact, on our radio and television stations, we have special programmes directed at them on how to deal with the abuse of alcohol because it is a problem in our community too.” Maharaj applauded the government’s decision to strengthen domestic violence legislation to protect abused women.
“Anything that will assist in holding the homes together I think is worthwhile,” he said, adding that domestic abuse was not much of a problem within the Hindu community.
“A lot of these things transport themselves back to our headquarters so we will know how bad it is. What we do have is a problem of excessive alcoholism and this will always lead to violence.”
Maharaj said yesterday’s celebrations can be used as a model for discipline across religious denominations. “I wish the children, their parents and those that are looking on will use the model that we are putting in place - behavioural models - and how to celebrate in a dignified manner and in a way that will not bring discredit to your school or your community,” he said.
“The children here are with their principals and teachers. We are holding them at a very young age and teaching them how to sing, how to dance, how to celebrate..
“When children are growing up you are going to have a little bit of deviant behaviour but it is not violently deviant. Some children behave a little odd and that is to be expected, that is part of the growing up process.” Regarding today’s observance of International Women’s Day, Maharaj urged all women to participate in Phagwa celebrations throughout the country.
“If there is women’s day, come and join. These women only join Carnival celebrations. This is an integral part of Trinidad and Tobago and it is now catching on across the world, wherever there are Hindus,” he said.
Indian High Commissioner Gauri Shankar Gupta, who addressed the gathering, told devotees that they should use the Phagwa observance to promote world peace.