Kundan Dom, a Mahadalit from Sultanganj, had acquired a dubious reputation because of his dependence on alcohol.
But all that has changed now. A reformed alcoholic, he returns home before dusk. His domestic life has also improved as he no longer creates a ruckus under the influence of alcohol.
Dom’s reformation is not a lone instance. A number of people in Bihar have kicked the habit after the state government introduced total prohibition last year. In one year, 44,000 people have been arrested for violating the liquor ban.
Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI), along with other research organisations, claimed that the quality of life of the state’s residents, especially women, took a turn for the better after the ban.
With the government now preparing to focus on a de-addiction drive, the political class’ views on the ban have changed.
The previous unanimity shown by parties in pressing for the prohibition has disappeared. While none of them want to lose out on the credit for bringing in the ban, the Opposition is highly critical of what it terms as ‘draconian’ provisions in the new excise law. BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi terms the ban a ‘complete failure’ due to “poor implementation of a good idea”.
Although police claim to have exercised strictness in implementing the ban, the liquor mafia continues to push in truckloads of alcohol and ardent tipplers are able to find ways to hoodwink the authorities. According to official records,the police and the excise department seized more than 5 lakh liters of alcohol between 2016-17.
“There are challenges. The government is committed to laying hands on the big fish and exposing the alleged police-politician nexus,” said chief secretary Anjani Kumar.
While time will only tell the political fallout of the ban, chief minister Nitish Kumar’s initiative has certainly travelled beyond Bihar. During a Bihar visit , PM Narendra Modi praised Kumar by calling his move “a bold step for social change (that) few would dare to even touch”.
Kumar admitted that prohibition had the potential to be accepted nationally and was even ready to spearhead it. The BJP, however, continues to highlight the ban’s ‘faults’.
“The government should clarify how the commercial taxes department fell short of Rs 3500-crore target when the CM claims Rs 10,000-crore savings have gone to other household expenditure,” Sushil Modi said, alleging that flawed implementation of the ban had given room to a parallel economy of illegal liquor trade.