Na peeyenge, na peene denge. (Neither will I drink, nor will I allow anyone else to drink).Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister, Bihar
This is precisely what Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and other Bihar legislators pledged a day before the state enforced its phase-wise booze ban. Five days after he enforced partial prohibition in the State, Nitish Kumar must be heaving a sigh of relief, as one of his resolves has been successfully implemented . The law enforcing agencies, particularly the cops – right from the DGP to constables – have also pledged to become teetotalers.
From 5 to 8 April, other Bihar government employees will also have to take a pledge that “we will neither drink, nor promote drinking.” The mass pledge will be organised at block and state headquarter levels. Bihar Chief Secretary Anjani Kumar Singh will personally lead the oath-taking function at the main secretariat.
This comes after a liquor ban was imposed in Bihar from 1 April, following a promise Nitish made to his female electorate on the eve of the 2015 Assembly elections.
Women, The Main Sufferers, Rejoice
Now that the prohibition resolve has been implemented, Nitish must be elated to see women throughout the state celebrating Holi again, even though the festival of colours was over more than a fortnight ago.
It’s worth noting that the Chief Minister is a teetotaler himself. After all, families after families have reportedly been ruined by consuming spurious liquor, particularly in the hinterland.
Women have suffered the most, not only due to deaths in hooch tragedies, but due to the increased number of domestic violence cases.
It was against this backdrop that Nitish amended a century-old law and passed the Bihar Excise Amendment Bill 2016, which awards capital punishment to those involved in illicit liquor trade/fracturing causing death. Those involved in illicit liquor trade/manufacturing causing disability will be awarded life-terms.
How Does he Plan to Make the Prohibition Effective?
The phase-wise prohibition, which has come into force with the beginning of the new financial year, however, allows Indian Manufactured Foreign Liquor (IMFL) to be sold in municipal and town areas through retail outlets of the Bihar State Beverages Corporation Limited. Of the proposed 655 new IMFL shops throughout the state, licenses have been granted to 150, while the process of issuing licenses to other shops are underway.
To make the prohibition effective, unlike its earlier failure in the 1970s, the Nitish government has appealed to the people, particularly women, to inform the control room of the Excise Department on its two toll-free numbers – 15545 and 18003456268 – if they have any information about the consumption of illicit liquor. Those who are relatively tech-savvy can also write to email@example.com.
The move assumes significance as there is a provision of jail term (five to ten years) to those caught drinking in public places. Under the amended law, there is a provision of five-year jail to those who consume liquor at home but create nuisance at public places. And to top it all, anyone selling alcohol in the name of medicine will be awarded a seven-year jail term.
Windfall for Toddy Shop Owners?
With the prohibition coming into force much more effectively than what many of the Nitish’s critics believed, it’s the toddy shop owners who were laughing all the way to the bank.
After all, in rural areas where there is complete ban on all forms of liquor, boozers had opted for the second best option – toddy – a natural alcoholic drink made from the sap of palm trees. But a couple of days ago, the Principal Secretary of the Excise Department, banned sale of toddy too, a move which was questioned by Leader of the Opposition in the Council Sushil Modi. He said such orders could not be issued without prior approval of the Cabinet.
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