Jharkhand government’s decision to enter liquor retail business could upset Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s anti-liquor campaign in the tribal state.
The decision, however, has irked several ministers in the Raghubar Das government and women organizations, who have been fighting for ban on sale and consumption of liquor.
The Jharkhand cabinet on Tuesday approved an excise and prohibition department’s proposal paving the way for the Jharkhand beverage corporation limited (JBCL) to control the retail business of foreign liquor and beer from August 1, 2017.
State drinking water and sanitation department minister Chandra Prakash Choudhary told Hindustan Times, “I had opposed the decision in the cabinet meeting. It is not a welfare scheme that government will take over. Everyone should understand that alcohol has been a curse to our society. I would oppose the decision.” Choudhary, an AJSU legislator from Ramgarh, said two-three BJP ministers had also tried to convince the CM that the decision would impact Jharkhand’s image. Das, however, is treading the same path, that his counterpart, Mamata Banerjee has charted for West Bengal and has run into opposition for legislators of other parties.
The Jharkhand decision has also drawn sharp criticism from opposition parties, trade bodies and several women’s organizations, who have been demanding ban on sale and consumption of liquor, as in Bihar.
Former chief minister and JMM working president Hemant Soren said, “Now government will open liquor outlets in villages, which will ultimately impact the lives of poor tribals in Jharkhand. I appeal to the rural residents of the state to not allow liquor outlets in their villages.” Soren said women organizations would have to come forward to launch a struggle against government’s liquor campaign.
Congress workers also burnt the effigy of Jharkhand government at Albert Ekka Chowk in protest against the government’s decision of selling liquor.
Nithish Kumar had inspired several women organizations through his rallies in Jharkhand for prohibition last year. The organizations carried out aggressive campaigns across the state for last several months demanding ban on sale and consumption of liquor.
“The decision is shocking. When voices for complete ban on sale and consumption of liquor is resounding across the state, how could the state think of selling liquor on its own. We will oppose it,” said Rani Kumari, president of Nari Shakti Sena, locally known as Gulabi Gang.
The organization has been spearheading an anti-liquor campaign and awareness drive against and sale and consumption of liquor in the state.
“Women suffer the most economically and socially. Government claims to have launched several projects for women’s empowerment but when it comes to banning liquor, it does just the opposite,” she said.
A survey conducted by the Registrar General of India (RGI), which was released on June 8 last year, said 23.4% of men above 15 years in Jharkhand drink alcohol, which is the second highest in the country after Chhattisgarh. The figure for Chhattisgarh is 33%. Federation of Jharkhand Chamber of Commerce and Industries have also lodged their protest the government’s move, saying it would put 1500-2000 people associated with the business out of jobs.