In the process of fulfilling the poll promise, the Government of Bihar has banned the sale and consumption of liquor (Alcohol) in Bihar with effect from April 1st 2016 in larger public interest. There was a surge of complaints from women about male members of the family resorting to drinking and creating nuisance, which also affected the education of their children.
The total ban has been imposed including country & spiced liquor and India Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) in rural areas. The plan was to roll out the liquor ban in phased manner allowing the sale of IMFL in 655 liquor shops in towns and cities in 1st phase. With immediate effect from April 1st (2nd phase), no license would be granted for sale and consumption of alcohol including IMFL in places like hotels, clubs and bars in towns and cities too in Bihar.
There was a massive protest by the civil societies, women organizations and social activists demanding ban of all type of alcohol. According to them alcohol addiction often led to family problems including domestic violence that also affects the children’s education. The consequences of this falls more on women in terms of domestic violence causing insecurity to their life and vulnerability to their living condition due to death of their spouse.
Separated from the Bengal Presidency of the British Raj in 1912, throughout the history Bihar has gone through economic and social backwardness. The infrastructure for entertainment and other recreational activities has not been well developed to make engage the people with positive activities. In the name of entertainment people adopts the easy going method of consuming alcohol and gets engaged with other illegal action as their recreational activities without being conscious about their life and health consequences due to social backwardness and illiteracy.
Precedence to be followed:
Considering this the Government of Bihar has imposed five commandments under this ban:
• One can’t drink at home
• One can’t keep liquor at home
• One can’t bring liquor into Bihar
• Defence canteen exempted
• Foreigners are also prohibited to carry and consume alcohol on the soil of Bihar
Failing this the following penal provision can be imposed:
However, Bihar has had the experience of going completely dry before as well. In March 1979, during the tenure of Karpoori Thakur the prohibition was announced but the ban was lifted by his successor Ram Sundar Das in the wake of increased corruption and bootlegging. With this ban Bihar will be the fourth state to go dry after Gujarat, Nagaland and Mizoram. Gujarat has been a dry state since 5 decades now and Kerala too is implementing the ban in phases and has allowed only five-star establishments to have bars. There has been a ban on toddy (alcohol) sale in Bihar since 1991. Fresh palm and plum extracts, including its juice which is extracted in the morning and is known as neera, would be bottled and sold. Fresh palm juice is like a health drink, but once neera is exposed to sun, it gets fermented and becomes alcohol which will be illegal for sale.
Prohibition has never been an overwhelming success in India. Haryana, which has now seen proliferation of liquor shops, had once experimented with prohibition in 1996. The ban was removed in two years after the state government lost revenue worth Rs. 1,200 crores. In Andhra Pradesh, ban on liquor was imposed in 1995. When the government realised that it couldn’t fulfill its promises without the revenue generated from alcohol excise duty, the ban was lifted. In 2015, Mizoram lifted a 17-year-old ban. In fact, rampant illegal sale of liquor forced Nagaland Chief Minister to describe his state as the “wettest dry state”. Hence, a booze-free Bihar is not necessarily a better Bihar because the state might see a rise in bootlegging owing to the growth of a ‘black market’.
This ban will cost the state a heavy revenue loss as Bihar gets revenue of nearly Rs. 2,000 crores from the sale of IMFL and revenue of around Rs. 4,000 crores from country liquor sales (in 2015-16). This prohibition will cause an annual revenue loss of Rs. 5,000 crores for Bihar.
However, according to the various experts in secretariats of the state, the coming of the GST will compensate the revenue loss from this and boost up the growth.
Banning Liquor is akin to opening doors for illicit trafficking:
Gujarat awards death penalty for makers and sellers of homemade liquor, yet the smuggling and illicit sale of alcohol are a commonality. Bihar shares a long open border with Nepal. This is tempting for the addicts to cross over to Nepal, drink to their fill and come back. Bihar’s pain will be Nepal’s gain. Moreover, does the ban necessarily ensure that there will be no deaths due to toxic liquor? Not really. Going by the reports of National Crime Records Bureau, Gujarat witnessed 29 cases of consumption of toxic liquor in 2013, while the neighbouring wet state Rajasthan, had zero cases. Hence, a booze-free Bihar is not necessarily a better Bihar because the state might see a rise in bootlegging owing to the growth of a ‘black market’. Even if we discount the fact that large chunk of population will be rendered unemployed after this ban, we cannot hoodwink ourselves into believing that the prohibition will be implemented without any fallout.