FM Lazer identified alcoholism as the root cause of poverty in the fishermen community in Kerala and set about changing that. Along the way he got involved in helping women and the elderly become more literate too, and launched a tricycle for the disabled. Truly a man with a mission, Lazer’s efforts are now bearing fruit across the entire state.
FM Lazer is a man of action. He has worked extensively with the fishing community in Kerala and was successful in making some parts of the state into alcohol-free zones, way before the state ultimately declared prohibition on the sale of alcohol in bars on August 24, 2014. He also teaches kids and the elderly, and helps the disabled. Having worked like this for over two decades, Lazer’s passion to improve the living conditions of the marginalised still remains intact.
“The majority of them live in poverty. How do we help them? They have always lived in this condition and they don’t know if there is a way out. I want to change that,” he says.
Lazer started by identifying the root cause of the problem and realized that alcoholic males in families not only created problems for other members but their actions also affected future generations — the children of alcoholics were more likely to become alcoholics too.
This is when he started his fight against alcohol and pledged to make Kerala an alcohol-free state.
He organised workshops, awareness campaigns, counselling sessions, and brought thousands of people out of addiction. His work attracted negative reaction from the alcohol lobby — death threats, physical attacks, and even an attempt to have him jailed for an indefinite period of time. He did go to jail for a few days but Lazer’s work for the fishermen community paid off and a large number of people (the majority of them fishermen) turned up to rescue this activist who had done a lot for them.
Later, Lazer opened an informal school for the children in the fishermen community, where he teaches over 500 students with the help of 15 teachers.
He has also started a school for adults, which sees regular attendance from 40 women and the elderly. “I believe if we want to change the situation, education is the only way to empower people,” he says.
Currently, the majority of his work revolves around working with the disabled — not just in the fishermen community but in the entire state. He has been working extensively to provide better mobility to people with disabilities. He managed to launch a motorised tricycle for the disabled, which became so popular that it is now available everywhere in Kerala.
“We can freely move and travel but people with disability always need support. This should not be there. They have a right to move freely like everyone else and I want to make this possible,” he says.
Thanks to Lazer’s interventions, hundreds of families in Kerala are now leading better lives. Men have quit alcohol, kids have started going to school and women are empowered too. Family income has increased in the fishermen community and the standard of living has risen.
Having made a great impact, Lazer believes that a ban on liquor is the right way to go for Kerala.
“I have seen the difference myself. Families are more peaceful, there are less fights. Many kids have gone to the cities for higher education and a lot of people are taking active part in panchayat level politics,” he says.
Lazer is also training people to become political leaders and empowering them to take up leadership roles in their communities and villages.
Lazer is an example of how one man can bring substantial change in the lives of thousands of people without any external support. We salute him for his immense courage and dedication and hope to see many more leaders like him.