Manipur govt seeks public views on partial lifting of liquor ban

The ruling BJP in Manipur has sought public opinion on the formulation of a proposed ‘White Paper on partial lifting of liquor prohibition in the state’ officials said on Tuesday.

An official of the Manipur government said that a public notice has been served seeking the opinion and views of the people, Civil Society organisations, NGOs and individuals on the state government’s decision to publish a white paper for lifting the prohibition from the state.

Following statewide protests, Chief Minister N. Biren Singh had earlier said that the government would come up with a white paper on liquor legalisation in the state. The state cabinet recently has decided to partially lift the three-decade-old prohibition on liquor consumption expecting to earn a revenue of Rs 600 crore annually further triggering strong opposition from various groups, including Coalition Against Drugs and Alcohol (CADA), who has been demanding modification of the cabinet decision.

The government is expected to table a Liquor Prohibition Amendment bill to spell out its liquor policy of the state very soon. The Chief Minister assured that the decision will be taken only after consultation with the stakeholders.

As per the State Cabinet decision, the sale of liquor will be confined to some specific locations, including district headquarters, tourist spots, security camps and hotels, having at least 20 bedded lodging facilities. Demanding to revoke the government’s decision to partially lift prohibition, various women’s organisations staged sit-in protests in different parts of the northeastern state.

One of the prime reasons for partially lifting the prohibition is to refrain people from consuming adulterated liquor, considering the health hazards posed by consumption of impure drinks, an official said, adding that the police would soon launch a drive against illicit liquor.

Tribal Affairs and Hills Development Minister Letpao Haokip, who is also the government spokesperson, had said that considering boosting revenue generation in view of the government’s financial crunch, “we expect to earn a revenue of over Rs 600 crore per year”.

Besides various other social evils, the women in Manipur have been fighting against alcoholism since the 1970s, forcing the then Manipur People’s Party-led government to pass the Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act in 1991.

The law is still in place. Since 1991, Manipur officially became a dry state with exemption to people belonging to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities to brew liquor for traditional purposes only.

However, despite the prohibition, liquor consumption could not be successfully controlled and alcohol remained widely available, leading to agitations in different parts of the state against liquor related menaces.

In 2002, the then Congress chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh lifted prohibition in the five hill districts of Manipur — Chandel, Churachandpur, Senapati, Tamenglong and Ukhrul districts.

In August last year, the Select Committee of the Manipur Legislative Assembly had given its approval to The Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act, 1991 (2nd Amendment). The bill could not make much headway following opposition from CADA.

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