Getting past god in a religiously dry state is tough. Unless you raise a toast for Him.
The church prevailed to have the Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition (MLTP) Act enforced in February 1997. Twelve years later, a church de rigueur – sacramental wine – has allowed some alcohol back in.
Predominantly Christian Mizoram has always been wary of rubbing the church the wrong way. The government thus had to come up with really good reasons to wash some bite out of the MLTP Act.
The opportunity came with consecutive bumper harvests of grapes – introduced in 2003-04 under National Technology Mission – in Hnahlan and Champhai areas of southeast Mizoram.
“The Bangalore Blue variety of grapes grown in landlocked Mizoram can’t be consumed as fruits. And we couldn’t let some 800 families suffer for lack of a market to offload 5,500 quintals of grapes they grow annually,” the State’s horticulture director Samuel Rosanglura told HT.
Bangalore Blue was good for making red port wine, though. And Holy Wine.
After a series of meetings with church leaders, the government amended the MLTP Act last year. Accordingly, wine from grapes and guava was deleted from the definition of liquor. The excise department was subsequently authorized to issue license to wineries and vendors.
“We have issued winery license to each of the grape growers association in Hnahlan and Champhai. The wineries, each capable of processing 3000 quintals of grapes, are scheduled to make wine brand-named Zawlaidi,” said Mizoram excise commissioner Lalbiakmawia Khiangte.
Zawlaidi, incidentally, means love potion in the Mizo language. And with an alcohol content of 16 per cent – the maximum permissible limit – it could lure the liquor-thirsty youth, fears the church.
“After Zawlaidi, the government might have the excuse to allow the sale of beer, which has lesser alcohol content,” said a church elder declining to be quoted.
Possibly why Mizoram officials haven’t figured out how to go about issuing vendor licenses without annoying the church.