New Delhi, Nov 26 (IANS) Bihar on Thursday joined the states that have banned liquor, with newly elected Chief Minister Nitish Kumar prohibiting sale and consumption of alcohol from April 1, 2016. But experts feel the decision should be “participatory” and not a “political agenda”.
Gujarat, Nagaland, Manipur (in some parts), and Union Territory of Lakshadweep have banned liquor while Kerala has since August 2014 been implementing the ban in a phased manner.
In Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who had promised to ban liquor before state assembly elections, made the announcement at an official function to mark Prohibition Day in the state capital.
He said the poorest of the poor had been consuming liquor, badly hitting their families and their children’s education.
“Women are suffering more than anyone else due to increasing liquor consumption,” he said.
Ban on liquor in different states of the country has not produced desired results as the decision was not “participatory” in nature and “forced” people to get involved in illegal production and consumption of liquor, experts believe.
Suneel Vatsyayan, chairman of Nada India Foundation, which works for betterment of the alcohol and drug addicted, told IANS: “A ban on alcohol needs public participation and campaigning. It must not just be a one man’s decision or a political agenda.”
As soon as the ban is imposed on alcohol, the state should be ready with a plan to deal with thousands of consumers who must have got into the habit of consuming liquor on day-to-day basis, and might need medical attention to do away with it, he said.
“Having a blanket ban does not work often, but doing away with liquor phase wise would help the state machinery to understand the need and reaction of prohibition,” Vatsyayan said, adding that the Kerala example could help other states in dealing with the social problem destroying number of poor families.
“Alcoholism has to be looked at through the perspective of women and children affected, not just those using it,” Vatsyayan said.
Other experts also believed that alcoholism has a strong relation with distorted behaviour of the affected, who at times under the influence of liquor indulge in domestic violence or even attempt rapes.
Anil Awachat of Muktangan Mitra, a Pune-based NGO working for prevention of alcohol and drug addiction, stressing the impact of drinking on domestic violence, favoured ban on liuquor as “it reduces” the number of drinkers in the society in the face of non-availability of alcohol.
“With the number of people consuming liquor going down with the ban, the social evils like domestic violence also come down,” Awachat said advocating the ban on liquor as well as other intoxicants.
The ban on liquor has been in force in Gujarat since the state came into being in 1960, and even before when Gujarat was a part of the then Bombay state (which was later divided into Gujarat, Maharashtra).
But the biggest ever hooch tragedy occurred in the same state in 1989 when over 257 people were killed in Vadodara. In other similar tragedies between 1971 and 1997, over 354 people died in different parts of the state.
Also in 2009 alone, at least 157 were killed in Ahmedabad, forcing the state to come up with death penalty to those involved in making spurious liquor.
Dealers of hard liquor in the country echoed similar views that the consumption of spurious liquor could hit a high note due to ban, and said that there is a need to regulate and control the supply rather than ban.
“Though Bihar is not the largest, it is a big consumer of alcohol. With the ban, people would start drinking cheaper homemade alcohol, which could be fatal. The state would lose money in terms of taxes, which would eventually go to neighbouring states, from where liquor would be illegally brought in,” said a Delhi-based hard liquor dealer, who supplies liquor to Bihar and did not want to be named.
Ban on liquor has been a demand of many in several parts of the country. During the first week of this month in Rajasthan, former legislator Gurcharan Chhabra (65) died after fasting for a month asking for a ban on the sale of liquor in the state.
(Bhavana Akella can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and Sushil Kumar at email@example.com)