Unlike rest of Uttar Pradesh which is struggling to meet stiff excise revenue targets, Ballia district reported unprecedented liquor sales of Rs 10.64 crore against a target of Rs 10.61 crore post demonetisation in November.
Similarly, Kushinagar and Deoria, enjoying proximity with Bihar, too bucked the trend of sluggish sales and met stiff targets post demonetization. This, at a time when liquor sellers elsewhere in UP, cited 40% dip in sales after the November 8 currency ban.
Ballia was among the low performing districts last year, falling short of revenue target by a whopping 30%. “Bihar’s liquor ban is the reason behind the turnaround in UP’s border districts,” admits CK Singh, Ballia’s district excise officer.
In October too Ballia had met the revenue target of Rs 10.19 crore, a trend noticed since May after Bihar imposed total prohibition in April.
Statistics since May show that guzzlers from Bihar have regularly crossed over to UP to beat the liquor ban making leaders of Bihar’s JD (U) angry.
“UP is undoing the good work of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, whose liquor ban decision is being praised by women across the country,” says Janata Dal (U) general secretary KC Tyagi.
But UP’s excise department officials aren’t complaining. A regular flow of tipplers from Bihar have boosted liquor sale along the borders where the UP government plans to allot more shops.
“UP is undoing the good work of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, whose liquor ban decision is being praised by women across the country.”
Excise department officials say the Bihar government has stepped up vigil on the borders to check people from flouting ban. “But people are regularly crossing over,” says RS Upadhyaya, district excise officer of Kushinagar.
“We too have achieved our monthly target. Bihar ban has a lot to do with it,” says Mubarak Ali, district excise officer of Chandauli, which was among the five ‘best performing’ districts.
2.43 lakh litres of liqour seized statewide, all existing stocks destroyed in the wake of the stringent prohibition law13,462 persons arrested for violation of Act, including Army men carrying liquor through Bihar via trains, planes
Chief secretary and director general of police, talk to counterparts in West Bengal, UP, Jharkhand and Nepal to seal borders, prohibit ingress of liquor stocks.
UP government’s excise department is flooded with requests for more liquor vends in Bihar-UP border districts. It helps to tap guzzlers from Bihar. Stay homes come up along Chandauli, Ghazipur, Mirzapur, Ballia, Varanasi, Gorakhpur.
Police and excise teams of Bihar’s border districts of Kaimur, Buxar and Rohtas arrest 862 offenders, seize 9,280 litres of whiskey, 22,305 litres of beer and 22,653 litres of countrymade liquor, including mahua of UP origin.
Commercial transport, small buses, vegetable and fruit lorries used to smuggle besides use of rivers such as Ganga, Sone and Karmansha. Unguarded trains on Mughalsarai-Aurangabad routes used freely. Labourers working in construction sites at Durgawati and Mohania in Bihar used as couriers.
BENEFIT BY DEFAULT
Last year, a bulk of UP districts had reported average decline of 17% in liquor sales, with some like Ballia even reporting a 30% fall. This forced the UP government to slash price of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL), a move opposed by country made liquor (‘desi’) sellers who cited heavy losses. The price cut led to a shift in consumption pattern.
“Consumers of ‘desi’ liquor realized that by paying around Rs 20 more they could have foreign liquor. UP government should have simultaneously reduced the MGQ, which didn’t happen,” says Kanhailal Maurya, general secretary of Lucknow Sharab Association.
In Bihar’s neighbouring districts, however, even this is not a concern as guzzlers are gulping everything up – from foreign to country made.
Deoria district sold 31.48 lakh litres of country made liquor in October against 27.81 lakh litres it sold in the same month last year. In contrast, its neighbouring district Maharajganj, which doesn’t share its boundary with Bihar, is short of the November target by 20%.
“Only districts that are neighbouring Bihar have benefitted,” says BB Singh, Maharajganj district excise officer. Bihar may have stamped out alcohol in one fell swoop, but it is clearly giving unintended benefits to Uttar Pradesh.