Chief minister Nitish Kumar put his foot down on prohibition on Saturday, and asked police officers who are unable to strictly enforce the anti-liquor law to resign.
Kumar said some station house officers had expressed their unwillingness to continue heading police stations to avoid being held responsible for dereliction of duty for deficient implementation of provisions of the prohibition law.
The CM’s response to the officers’ request was blunt: “If you can’t do your job, you are free to step down or even consider quitting service”.
He was speaking at a function organised under the banner of Kushwaha Rajnaitik Chetna Manch to felicitate newly elected panchayat representatives.
Total prohibition, a key promise during Kumar’s election campaign, came into effect in Bihar retroactively from April 1.
“People have voted me to office to deliver on my promises. I am committed to enforce the ban on liquor strictly. If those entrusted with the task are found to be slack or guilty of misuse of the provisions of prohibition, they will be penalised and tried for their misdemeanour,” he said.
His remarks came in response to the Bihar Police Association’s (BPA) protest against the suspension of 11 SHOs over their failure to check illegal liquor trade. The BPA had issued an ultimatum to withdraw the suspension, stating that about 250 SHOs had expressed their unwillingness to continue on their post.
Taking on his detractors head on, Kumar said no amount of canard about “draconian provisions” being spread by vested interests would deter him from his commitment to ensure proper implementation of the social initiative.
“First they talked about the number of bottles, then about fixation of responsibility and arrest of village headman (as per a 1915 law). When these were clarified, they have started talking about arrest of women owner of house, where liquor bottle is recovered,” he said.
“But you should come up with suggestions. I am open to it. I have appreciated a suggestion for having a blood test done to identify who consumed alcohol in case of recovery of bottles,” he said. “Laws are open to amendments, even the Indian Constitution has been amended 122 times”.
Rubbishing the charge that he was too focussed on prohibition, Kumar said he has chosen to engage in a direct dialogue with the people’s representatives (panchayati raj functionaries) more often to clear misgivings, apprise them with the steps taken and also seek their active participation in the implementation of prohibition.
The social and economic impact of the move would silence detractors, as it did those who criticised and ridiculed his decision to provide 50% reservation for women in PRIs in 2006, he said.