Nitish bows to women and imposes alcohol ban in Bihar from April next

Consuming liquor is badly hitting families and the children's education, says Bihar chief minister

GN Bureau | November 26, 2015



Alcohol will be banned in Bihar from next year and the state is ready to forget Rs 2,5000 crore revenue.

Chief minister Nitish Kumar announced this today and kept his promise he had made to a group of angry women in July. It is not clear whether the ban will be restricted to country liquor or will include all alcohol.

In July, months before the state polls, Mr Kumar had faced protests at a function from women, who shouted complaints about country liquor addiction in villages.  The Chief Minister had then assured them that if he returned to power, he would ban alcohol. "These women are correct about alcohol. If I come to power, I will have it stopped," he had said.

"In 1977-78 we tried to impose prohibition but it was not effective. But I feel that the women are suffering (because of alcohol abuse)... I have instructed my officials to start working towards this and implement this from the next financial year," Kumar said.

This is the first major announcement by Kumar since he was sworn in as chief minister for the fifth time last week after a spectacular election victory.

The Bihar government earns nearly Rs. 2,500 crore every year through taxes on the sale of alcohol.

He said the poorest of the poor had been consuming liquor, badly hitting their families and their children's education. Increasing liquor consumption was also a major cause for domestic violence, particularly against women, and had contributed to a rise in crimes.

"Women are suffering more than anyone else due to increasing liquor consumption," he said at the official function to mark Prohibition Day in Patna..

After Nitish Kumar's announcement, there were comments on social media about the "Gujarat model" in Bihar. Prohibition has been in place in Gujarat since 1960. Alcohol is also banned in Nagaland, Manipur and Lakshwadeep.

Last year, the Congress-led government in Kerala announced that it will be totally alcohol-free within 10 years. Hundreds of bars were forced to shut down across the state, and alcohol is now served only in five-star hotels. After protests, bars were recently allowed to sell beer and wine.

Bihar Excise and Prohibition Minister Abdul Jalil Mastan had earlier said that the state government would soon take steps to impose a liquor ban. Mastan said the demand for prohibition in Bihar had been made by many. Women, mostly from Dalit and backward castes, had been at the forefront of protests against rising liquor consumption and demanded a ban on it.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushil Kumar Modi on Wednesday vowed to support a liquor ban.

The decision is expected to derail the government's financial health.

The excise department went into an overdrive in 2007 following a new policy and started issuing licences for marketing liquor across the state.

The revenue collection of excise department registered a more than 10-fold jump, from Rs.319 crore in 2005-06 to Rs.3,650 crore in 2014-15.

Defending the move to impose the ban after a five months gap, the JDU said that the government did not want a parallel alcohol economy to be launched, and hence kept the time in hand to work out on the logistics.

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