A fortnight after Bihar enforced liquor prohibition, the state’s 38 de-addiction centres in as many districts are awaiting patients. Three alcoholics have died since the ban on April 1, with the latest case from Khagaria de-addiction centre on Wednesday.
Of the total 550 beds in these centres, only 106 — less than 20% — were occupied on Wednesday, while only 251 were admitted at these centres since April 1. The admissions at the de-addiction centre are contrary to the government’s expectation. On April 5, chief minister Nitish Kumar asked the health department to scale up the number of beds in the de-addiction centres from 10 to 20.
While 17 districts had already complied with the directives, another 21 were in the process of increasing the number of beds. However, the government now finds that even 10 beds are not occupied at most of the de-addiction centres. This has prompted the government to infer that liquor sale is going on clandestinely.
Officials said there was reluctance among patients to stay back at the centre for fear of losing their wages.
“Those coming to our centres are usually from the lower socio-economic strata, not sure about two square meals a day. Maximum that they (alcoholics) stay at our centre is for three days, after which they insist on being released for fear of losing wages,” said Dr VP Agarwal, nodal officer of the Purnea de-addiction centre.
“Three persons — one each at Katihar, Kaimur and Khagaria — have died after reporting at our de-addiction centres. We cannot say if all these deaths were due to alcohol withdrawal,” health secretary Jitendra Srivastava said.