Governance Now Visionary Talks Series

Liquor ban is overreach by Bihar government

Sixteen deaths, reportedly caused by consumption of spurious liquor, have triggered a debate over the controversial liquor ban in Bihar.

amol

Amol Parth | August 19, 2016 | New Delhi


#deaths   #liquor ban   #Bihar   #Nitish Kumar  

 Since we ‘made our tryst with destiny’ and woke up “to life and freedom”, in every aspect of our lives, we have been trying to move towards a comparatively more open and liberal society, which gives people more and better choices. Lack of freedom to choose one’s basic eating and drinking habit is contradictory to this pursuit of a liberal society.

The April 1 liquor ban in Bihar and the ones existing in Gujarat, Nagaland and parts of Manipur are about limiting people’s choices and a question on their ability to make good decisions for themselves.
 
During framing of the Constitution, the Article 47, governing liquor ban, was included in the Directives Principles of State Policy, but most of the states eventually removed the ban on liquor owing to loss in Excise revenue, electoral loss, smuggling of liquor, deaths due to spurious liquor, bootlegging and loss of jobs.
 
Going back on this is politically convenient for Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, whose rising popularity among women voters is crucial for his national ambitions.
 
Reports suggest that the women are happy with the ban.
 
Some claim that the number of accidents and crimes has come down. As if the crimes and accidents across the world happen primarily because of the drinking habits of the people. Isn’t this more about the government’s failure in implementing the rule of law, which prohibits drunk driving?
 
The efforts that the government is putting in framing and implementation of draconian liquor prohibition laws; had it been directed towards better law and order enforcement, the dawn of Jungle Raj 2.0 could have been avoided.
 
But, can the government interfere in people’s eating and drinking habits?
 
Let’s understand why we need government. As an individual, we can take decisions for ourselves on various aspects of our life, but as a society and a nation, there are issues which are of common interest to all of us, for example, foreign policy and national security. On these issues of common interest where one person cannot decide for all of us, we need a process for collective decision-making. Hence, we choose the government.
 
Drinking in public, drinking and driving, creating nuisance after drinking are issues of common interest, hence the government should and must interfere. But absolute ban on drinking per se is an overreach by the government.
 
 

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