Nepal is witnessing an increasing number of tourists of late, especially in the areas it shares a border with Bihar. Strangely, these tourists are neither interested in the Himalayan country’s pristine natural beauty nor in its rich cultural heritage. They enter Nepal only to get drunk.
Small traders in Nepal are reaping the fruits of a complete ban on alcohol in Bihar. People are now flocking to this hill country for their share of ‘drinks’, even though these might be of low quality.
“Following the ban, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of people crossing the border into Nepal to have a drink,” said a local trader.
“Border points have flourished, with ‘bars’ sprouting all over the place targeting customers from adjoining districts of the state. Lately, the number of customers coming to Biratnagar from Jogbani has increased significantly,” he added.
According to SSB sources, the Nepal side of the porous international border has witnessed a sudden rise in small huts to target alcohol drinkers from Bihar.
Nepal and India have an open border and people on both sides do not require visas, but this is the first time that such a large number of people have been crossing the borders just to consume alcohol.
At a recent meeting at Forbesganj, authorities sought help from their Nepali counterparts to curb the movement of people for ‘liquor tourism’.
Toyam Rai, chief district officer of Sunsari district who led the Nepali team, said that due to the porous international border, there was high chance of smuggling of alcohol from Nepal to Bihar, and so the Bihar authorities asked for cooperation to prevent it.
District magistrate of Araria, Himanshu Sharma, the SP and others also attended the meeting. Sources said mostly people from the working class cross the border for alcohol. “On holidays, businessmen and youth also cross the border on a large scale,” they added.
Sunsari (Nepal) SP Sandip Bhandari said in this new situation, there could be new security threats along the border. “We are also concerned that after the ban, criminals may sneak into Nepal,” he added.
UP excise department officials also vouched for a sudden spurt in sale of desi (Indian made) liquor and Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) in Kushinagar and Deoria districts bordering Bihar since the enforcement of prohibition.
Sale of beer has also seen a substantial jump, said the official, attributing the increase to the ongoing wedding season coupled with the Bihar ban. “Sales is usually up in wedding season, but this season the increase is substantial,” the official said.
Sources also said large scale smuggling of liquor into Bihar is also witnessed from the two border districts. “We have alerted the police,” the official said, conceding that it would be impossible to stop revellers from crossing over to UP and enjoying a drink or totally prevent liquor being smuggled into Bihar.