How liquor ban in Bihar shut down one village and made another rich
They are situated just two kilometers apart from each other in northeast Bihar’s Purnia district and have, for decades, been the region’s hub for country-made liquor.
But two years after Bihar imposed alcohol prohibition across the state, the two neighbouring villages are a picture in contrast.
Alinagar in K Nagar block is a success story as women in the tribal-dominated village have turned milk producers with the help of local organisations and the government. But in Kathol village under Baisi block, the alcohol ban has wrecked many families and bankrupted them.
Alinagar, a mud-house-and-thatched-roof ensemble in one of India’s poorest regions, comprises tribal, Dalit and Muslim families who brewed alcohol for a living. But after April 5, 2016, the Dugdha Vikash Samiti, a local cooperative of milk producers, motivated them to rear cows and sell milk.
Today, Parwati Marandi, a 35-year-old tribal woman, said the cows helped her provide for her family.
“I own four cows and the money I earn by selling milk is enough to run my family,” Marandi said. “Before prohibition was enforced, the village used to manufacture 500 litres of country-made liquor. Now, we produce 300 litres milk every day,” she added.
Marandi said she now earns between ~10,000 and ~12,000 a month, up from the ~5,000 she would get from selling alcohol.
“It was not easy to shun my family profession of manufacturing liquor. But I did and now I can say it was a right decision,” she beamed.
Stories such as that of Marandi are what the government is using to promote the decision.
But the flip side is mirrored in Kathol.
Tara May Devi, a 25-year-old tribal woman, survives on alms and blamed prohibition for her state. Her house was raided last July and the police allegedly damaged all her possessions and arrested her husband.
“My husband, Anju Tudu, 35, died from shock soon after coming out of jail. I sold my cattle to get my husband released, but could not save him,” she sobbed.
“Most of the people from the villages have now left for Punjab where they work as migrant labourers,” said Shanti Devi, 25, whose husband was arrested.
Tallu Murmu, 50 was allegedly caught while drinking country-made liquor. He had to sell all his possessions, including cattle, to fight the legal battle.
Now he works in Punjab to support his family 3 — three children and a wife.
“We are carrying out regular raids just to enforce total prohibition in letter and spirit,” Baisi deputy superintendent of police (DSP) Sunita Kumari said. She ruled out allegations of highhandedness during raids.