Bihar’s total prohibition has left thousands of security personnel, including Army men serving in the state, in a piquant situation, deprived of a drink or two to unwind after a hard day’s work.
Though the new Bihar Excise Act does not intrude into the cantonment areas, a letter by the excise commissioner to the top army official in Bihar and Jharkhand, inspector generals of paramilitary forces and NCC directorate made it explicitly clear that anyone found drinking or possessing liquor outside would face action.
The letter was issued on May 11, more than a month after the Nitish Kumar government imposed total prohibition in the state under a new legislation with stringent punishment for flouting the rules.
The government also requested army and para-militaries to inform their serving and retired personnel not to consume or carry liquor outside the cantonment area. This direction from the state government, army authorities say, is highly impractical.
Twice on Monday and Tuesday, top army officials met state government officials pointing out the difficulties and seeking relaxation of the norms, sources said.
On Monday, the general officer commanding (GOC) of Jharkhand and Bihar sub-area met the chief secretary to raise the issue. On Tuesday, the GOC and IGs of paramilitary forces met the principal secretary, excise to raise the matter, the sources added.
There are nearly 1.25 lakh ex-servicemen in Bihar and 20,000 serving Army personnel in the state. Bihar also has around 10,000 CRPF deputed across the state, besides other para-military forces.
An official of the Jharkhand Bihar sub-area said army personnel and jawans residing outside in residential localities of Patna, Khagaul, Maner, Bihta, were unable to take home the liquor permitted under quotas fixed by the Indian Army.
CRPF additional director general (Bihar sector) Shailendra Kumar Singh said the jawans based in extremist-affected regions like Jamui, Munger, Gaya and Rohtas should get facilities like army to consume liquor in their camps.
“We work away from home and family in hills and forests. We don’t even have proper accommodation. We work in difficult hours. Taking away alcohol will only make our job difficult and many jawans will prefer staying away from Bihar,” he added.
According to army sources, government also ignored that there are other army establishment in Muzaffarpur, Bhagalpur Katihar, Jamalpur and Gaya. Some of them also have canteen facility, from where liquor is issued to the army personnel.
“A confrontation like situation recently arose at Jamalpur in Munger district where excise officials tried to search the premises of the Territorial Army battalion. Similar situation may come up at other places also,” said an army official.
Last week, a section of ex-servicemen staged a demonstration at Saguna More to protest the new excise act. “Where should we drink? Give us place,” they shouted.
More than 20,000 jawans of the Bihar regiment are posted in far-flung areas of different sectors, including Jammu and Kashmir, north-east region, and they are hardly aware about the new rules of Bihar.
“In such a case, when they get sudden movement order or get leave, they would enter Bihar with liquor, oblivious of the fact that it could land them in jail,” said another top official.