CIABC writes to Bihar govt to lift ‘complete ban’ on liquor, minister refuses - Hindustan Times

CIABC writes to Bihar govt to lift ‘complete ban’ on liquor, minister refuses

Dec 07, 2023 04:11 PM IST

Bihar prohibition and excise minister Sunil Kumar has said that prohibition was a policy decision of the state government after being unanimously passed by both Houses of the state legislature and there was no chance of it being withdrawn

The Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC), the representative body of leading Indian alcohol beverage companies, has again urged the Bihar government to lift a “complete ban” on liquor in the state, on the lines of the Manipur government’s decision.

Bihar imposed total prohibition in 2016 (Representative Photo)
Bihar imposed total prohibition in 2016 (Representative Photo)

CIABC had written to the Bihar government and leaders from all constituents of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 2021 to end prohibition in the state after a series of deaths linked to the consumption of spurious liquor was reported. It wrote another letter on Wednesday after Manipur revoked the prohibition.

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“By ending over three-decade-long prohibition, the Manipur government has taken a positive step forward which would not only earn Rs.600-700 crore as annual tax revenues but also help tackle the menace of sale of illegal liquor and spread of drugs. It is going to give a major fillip to the state’s economic growth,” said CIABC director general, Vinod Giri, in a statement.

He said that the Bihar government should also follow suit and lift prohibition, “which has crippled the growth and development of the state and led to so many deaths due to hooch tragedies”.

State prohibition and excise minister Sunil Kumar, however, said that prohibition was a policy decision of the state government after being unanimously passed by both Houses of the state legislature and there was no chance of it being withdrawn.

“The government with the support of all parties implemented it with the larger objective of social welfare despite being aware of losing revenue and the feedback has been positive. The surveys have shown how it has improved the quality of life and restored family bliss among poor families. I have not seen the letter yet, as I am in my constituency, but lifting prohibition does not seem probable,” he said.

Following devastating ethnic flare-ups and a campaign against drug and alcohol abuse, the Manipur cabinet on Monday lifted a complete ban on liquor. Manipur had partially lifted the prohibition a year ago. Manipur has been a dry state since 1991.

Bihar imposed total prohibition in 2016 and since then it has relaxed rules several times, but smuggling and manufacture of spurious liquor and proliferation drugs, even synthetic ones, have raised questions about mark over its implementation.

“Bihar is paying a heavy price of prohibition policy in the form of proliferation of unlawful and spurious liquor, hooch tragedies, the rise of crime syndicates and loss of legitimate government revenues,” Giri said.

Repeated hooch tragedies have so far seen over 300 deaths. Since 2016, close to 500,000 cases are pending in courts, he added.

“Keeping all these aspects in mind, we have been urging the Bihar government to end prohibition and open up the liquor trade in the state in a responsible manner. We have even suggested that liquor factories would keep 50% of their workforce as women leading to true economic empowerment of women,” said Giri.

Maintaining that the proposed door-to-door survey to study prohibition would serve no purpose, Giri said that the National Family Health Survey 2019-20 report had clearly stated that Bihar consumes more liquor than Maharashtra, which proves that prohibition has not worked.

“Report also suggests that 90% of illegal sale of liquor is among poor and backward people. Bihar’s loss has turned out to be its neighbours’ gain as liquor sales in border districts of neighbouring states have gone up. Prohibition is known to have not worked earlier in other states like Haryana, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. In Gujarat, there is no complete ban,” he added.

Bihar efforts

Alleged hooch tragedies in different parts of Bihar earlier this month once again triggered a war of words between the Opposition and the government over the efficacy of prohibition, which is into its eighth year without much let up in smuggling of liquor into the state despite huge recoveries and unending arrests.

Experts, however, say that the deaths might be caused due to many factors, not necessarily due to easily available spurious liquor, but also because of several dangerous substitutes to alcohol available.

A Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) official said that the recoveries of dangerous substances and synthetic drugs, as per its data, had not increased significantly, but there were reports about intoxicating substances using various medicines in unknown and dangerous proportions and not falling under the category of narcotics being freely used.

Alarmed by the growing proliferation of narcotics substances in dry Bihar, which is affecting the youth, the Bihar police had earlier this year reconstituted the Anti-Narcotics Task Force (ANTF) by additional director general (ADG), NH Khan, under the Economic Offence Unit (EOU) in the light of the directions from the ministry of home affairs (MHA) earlier this year.

“The ANTF works as the secretariat of the National Narcotics Coordination Portal (NCORD) and its in-charge will be the nodal officer for coordination with the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB). The ANTF monitors the activities of those associated with the smuggling of narcotics substances and carries out raids,” said ADG NH Khan.

The move is significant as large-scale seizures have been made in the state in the recent past and there are growing instances of youth falling into the trap of substance abuse.

At a seminar on the implementation of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, organized by the Bihar Judicial Academy in 2021, it was pointed out that over 6000 cases under the Act were pending in Bihar, with maximum cases in Patna, and that needed to be brought down.

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    Arun Kumar is Senior Assistant Editor with Hindustan Times. He has spent two-and-half decades covering Bihar, including politics, educational and social issues.

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