Maharashtra government on Tuesday declared mineral rich Chandrapur district in Vidarbha region as 'dry district', imposing ban on the sale, purchase, production and consumption of liquor.
Chandrapur will be the third district in the state after neighbouring Wardha and Gadchiroli, also in east Maharashtra, where liquor prohibition is brought in.
An official in the chief minister's office (CMO) said all the three districts are situated on the state's borders and there is a possibility of illicit liquor trade and need of the hour is for effective curbs on such activities.
"The social justice department will undertake a programme to create awareness against consumption of alcohol. A separate department will be created for effectively implementing prohibition in these three districts for which adequate manpower will be provided for police and excise departments," the official said.
All alcohol permits in Chandrapur will be cancelled and would be shifted to other districts other than Wardha, Gadchiroli and Chandrapur as per the requests of the permit-holders while adhering to rules and guidelines.
The demand for banning liquor in Chandrapur was made in late 2010, following which a committee was set up and a decision was taken that in the interest of health of the people of Chandrapur, liquor consumption must be prohibited.
While there is a blanket ban on the sale, purchase, production and consumption of liquor in Wardha, as it is closely linked with Mahatma Gandhi with his ashram situated in Sevagram, in the case of Gadchiroli the decision to declare it as a dry district was taken in 1992 owing to a public outcry to ban alcohol in view of growing Naxal movement there.
Meanwhile, finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, who is also guardian minister of Chandrapur district, welcomed the decision.
"This is an important decision in my political life. I have succeeded in taking the voice of my district to Vidhan Sabha," Mungantiwar told reporters after the state cabinet decision.
"Earlier, as an MLA, I used all legislative tools to make Chandrapur a dry district. In 2010, I tabled a private member's bill in the assembly on the issue. A committee was formed and I insisted that social activist Dr Abhay Bang be taken on board," Mungantiwar said.
"On an average, an affected family spent Rs 10,000 per year on liquor. It was estimated that around Rs 1,000 to 1,200 crore were wasted (in the district)," he said.
"A girl told me after recent elections that I should ensure Chandrapur district was made liquor-free. She told me that she had seen her drunk father beating her mother every day," Mungantiwar said.
A total of 588 out of 847 gram panchayats in Chandrapur had demanded prohibition and 5,000 working class women went on a 130km-long march from Chimur to Nagpur during the winter session in 2010.