Ahead of the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh in 2017, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar sought support from the people to ban liquor in the state. At an anti-liquor rally in Jewar, held by a local organisation called Nirbhaya Sangathan, Kumar targeted both the state and Central governments for not imposing a complete ban on liquor.
“The crime rate has dropped drastically (in Bihar) from the time liquor was banned. Data shows a decline of 39% in cases of murder, 70% in cases of abduction for extortion, 22% in rape and a substantial decline in other crimes. I have requested UP CM Akhilesh Yadav to visit Bihar or send his officials there and witness the change taking place due to the ban,” said Kumar, challenging Yadav to ban the sale of liquor in UP.
“In Bihar, we used to get Rs 5,000 crore in taxes from liquor sales. That means liquor worth Rs 10,000 crore must have been consumed annually. Now this money is being used for the prosperity of families. They are spending money on making purchases and the exchequer gets the tax from those purchases. In UP, liquor worth Rs 25 crore - Rs 30 crore is being consumed. Imagine the kind of prosperity families will witness if it is banned,” Kumar said.
He also targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi for ‘showing off’ yoga on International Yoga Day and claimed that yoga is incomplete without a ban on liquor.
“We have been doing yoga for a long time, but never showed it off. We have a world-famous yoga university in Bihar’s Munger district and we follow its yoga. The PM is showing off yoga but does not ban liquor. If it is not possible for him to ban liquor in the entire country, he can do so in the BJP-ruled states at least,” he said.
Further, Kumar said that sugarcane farmers have not been affected by the liquor ban and sugarcane byproducts used in liquor production are now being used to produce ethanol.
“We import ethanol, which is mixed in petrol in the ratio of 10:1. If we ban liquor and use the sugarcane to produce ethanol, a huge amount of money currently being spent to import ethanol can be saved. Farmers too will make a huge profit out of it,” he said.
He claimed that Bihar produces ethanol worth Rs 1,000 crore and said UP can produce ethanol worth more than Rs 3,000 crore if the state bans liquor.
Kumar also took a dig at Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari.
“In his recent interview on TV, I saw Gadkari discuss rising cases of road accidents and fatalities. Why doesn’t he ban liquor to avert accidents? Recently, the chief economic advisor of PM, Arvind Subramanian, visited Bihar. I told him how a liquor ban can be useful for the economy. Road accidents have declined by 30% in Bihar since liquor was banned. I also offered him a neutral inquiry into my claims,” Kumar said.
In his 35-minute long speech, Kumar sought support from local residents in imposing a liquor ban. However, at the end of it, he dodged questions from journalists on the Bihar Examination Board scam and left the venue in a hurry.