No more liquor for Bihar villagers

Patna : With a partial liquor ban coming into force in Bihar from Friday, thousands of ‘desi’ liquor shops in villages across the state will go ‘dry’. The Indian-made foreign liquor, however, will be available in urban areas at government-run shops.

Unlike urban localities, liquor ban has come into effect in entire rural Bihar as shops of ‘desi’ or country-made liquor in 45,000 villages closed down late Thursday night.

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The state government has banned country-made and spiced liquor, which had high consumption in rural areas. The Indian-made foreign liquor will be available for sale at government-run shops in urban areas.

Bihar Excise and Prohibition Minister Abdul Jalil Mastan told IANS here the number of liquor shops has reduced from 6,000 to only 656 in the state in the wake of liquor ban coming into force from April 1.

“All the country-made liquor outlets opened in villages between 2007 and 2014 have been closed. There will be no liquor shops in rural areas. It has been decided that the government-run 656 shops of Bihar State Beverages Corporation Limited in urban areas will sell Indian-made foreign liquor,” he said.

The government, Mastan said, has made all possible arrangements to implement a total ban on sale of country-made liquor and concerned enforcing agencies would act tough against those violating it.

Stating that the state government was committed to ensure a total ban, he said: “We have fully banned country made liquor in the first phase, followed by Indian-made foreign liquor later this year or next year.”

Bihar Police headquarters have made station house officers (SHOs) mainly responsible to ensure a complete ban. They would face action if they failed to enforce the ban with the help of village security guards.

The prohibition police control room set up at police headquarters would function round the clock.

The Bihar assembly on Wednesday unanimously passed the Bihar Excise (amendment) Bill, 2016, banning country-made liquor and vends and providing for death penalty for those found violating the ban on manufacture of and trade in illicit liquor in the event of a hooch tragedy.

All members of both the Bihar assembly and the legislative council also unanimously adopted a resolution that they would not consume liquor, in a first for Bihar.

The state cabinet on late Thursday evening approved the new amendment act after the governor’s assent and formally the state government has issued a notification, an official in the Chief Minister office here said.

Chief MInister Nitish Kumar, who announced the alcohol ban from April 1 during campaigning for the 2015 assembly elections, was upbeat after the Bihar Excise (Amendment) Bill, 2016, was passed. He termed it a historic day.

The chief minister has repeatedly said that his government would do everything to discourage the drinking habit as it severely hits the poorest of the poor. They were consuming liquor, leading to family problems, domestic violence and affecting their children’s education. “Women are suffering more than anyone else due to increasing liquor consumption,” he said.

According to officials, the ban decision is expected to impact the state government’s financial health.

Bihar got an annual revenue of around Rs.4,000 crore from liquor sales in 2015-16. It is estimated that the government will lose revenue from the sale of country-made liquor due to the ban. But the government will still earn revenue of nearly Rs.2,000 crore from the sale of India-made foreign liquor.

To provide the livelihood of those involved in the liquor business, the government has offered them to sell products of the state-run Bihar State Milk Cooperative Federation Ltd. under the brand name “Sudha Dairy”.

In the past also, Bihar had tried to ban liquor in 1977-78 by the then chief minister Karpoori Thakur, a socialist veteran but failed to effectively implement it.