After strongly batting for prohibition in the first leg of his ‘parivartan yatra’, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Monday got feedback from people at the ‘lok samvad’ programme on the issue.
Forty among 1,200 people who sent suggestions on the newly enforced Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016, were selected for the programme following criticism of the ‘harsh provisions’, which has landed over 16,000 in prison.
A senior official said the government’s move was generally welcomed, but there were suggestions to tone down punishments, especially jail sentences for adult members of any family if liquor is recovered from their homes.
The suggestions also talked about proper functioning and monitoring of excise and police officials to prevent attempts to implicate anyone.
Representatives of Indian Medical Association were in favour of prohibition, but wanted graded punishment, with small and larger penalty for first two offences and prison time for third offence.
Some were disappointed at not being invited. “In fact, we would have told him that any law is not to make criminals out of innocent people. Without any track record of crime, there are many languishing in jail just because they possessed a bottle of liquor,” said one, adding the ‘Lok Samvad’ should have been more open.
The chief minister is to take feedback from political leaders at an all-party meeting. It is widely speculated that the government could relent on some of the legal provisions governing prohibition since it feels the measure could usher in a silent revolution.
Kumar also gave a detailed account of Bihar’s prohibition journey, starting from the pre-poll inspiration from women, enforcement from April and the changes it has brought about in the society, especially rural areas, in the form of social cohesion and family bliss.
“I was always for prohibition. However, enforcing prohibition was never going to be easy in the backdrop of experiences in other states where it was tried. So, I had to make the laws stricter for effective prohibition”, he said.
He added: “Nearly 80% of nearly 16000 persons facing action under prohibition are those engaged in illicit liquor trade. I don’t want controversies, but I do want prohibition to succeed, as I have seen its positive impact on the society,” he added.
Deputy CM Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, finance minister Abdul Bari Siddiqui, excise and prohibition minister Abdul Jalil Mastan, energy minister Bijendra Prasad Yadav, chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh, DGP PK Thakur and other senior officials were present on the occasion.