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Saturday 6 June 2020

Nitish Kumar’s final encounter with illicit liquor trade in Bihar

The chief minister is trying to keep officials on their toes to ensure liquor prohibition, which did not succeed anywhere, works in Bihar



The Nitish Kumar government will now take major action against big businessmen, mafia and suppliers of liquor in Bihar. Strict action will be taken after assessing the profiles of people arrested so far. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar gave strict instructions during a marathon meeting with police and administration officials on Saturday.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, while directing officials to identify big liquor traders, said that just arresting the pawns would not work. When the mafia and real businessmen are caught, only then the illegal trade of liquor will stop completely, he said.

In the review meeting held at the chief minister’s residence, Nitish Kumar entrusted the Panchayati Raj representatives in all the districts with the task of running an awareness campaign on prohibition. He asked for strict enforcement of the previous order and to monitor the progress continuously once the information is received about a businessman involved in the racket.

The chief minister asked the officials to find out the older businesses of the members of the liquor mafia. He said a better response will increase people’s faith in the administration. Nitish Kumar laid special emphasis on keeping an eye on operators in the illicit liquor trade from the bottom to the top.

Enumerating the benefits of prohibition, Nitish Kumar directed the system of IG Prohibition to be developed further and made effective. The chief minister stressed the need to monitor the duration of raids and assessment of the inspectors’ performances as satisfactory or otherwise.

In the course of the review, the chief minister said that the prohibition was a work of social reform. “Society is benefiting greatly from this. There are few people with a messed up mentality, who are still engaged in this business. The Supreme Court has also said in its order that drinking alcohol and trading in it is not a fundamental right. There is a nationwide concern about children and women turning alcoholic,” Nitish Kumar said.

The chief minister said there was a need to carry out a continuous campaign to make the liquor ban permanent. He said that routine would not succeed merely by working on it, but “for this, you will have to take at least half-an-hour daily and monitor it,” Nitish Kumar said.

Along with the IG Prohibition, Excise, Special Branch, Police and the IT Department have been instructed to work in coordination.

The chief minister asked officials to monitor whether all the police stations had collected the necessary affidavits. He asked all ministers and officials of the State to give details of their income. “Some people have the mindset of indulging in corruption for illegal money. Nitish Kumar said if liquor-laden vehicles are coming from other States, “seek cooperation with the officials of the neighbouring and other border States to catch the real thieves”.

The presentation during the review meeting showed a report on the current status of prohibition and comparative data related to the current six-month situation. IG Prohibition was told that liquor traders were being monitored with the help of CCTV cameras and sniffer dogs.

The meeting was attended by Additional Chief Secretary of Home Department Aamir Shamtani, DGP Gupteshwar Pandey, CM Principal Secretary Chanchal Kumar, ADG Special Branch JS Gangwar, ADG Headquarters Jitendra Kumar, CM’s Secretary Manish Kumar Verma, CM’s Secretary Anupam Kumar, IG Prohibition Ratna Sanjay , Commissioner of Alcohol Prohibition and Registration B Karthikeya Dhanji, CMD OOSD Gopal Singh and other senior officials were present.

Failures of prohibition: Lesson for Nitish

“National prohibition of alcohol (1920-33) – the ‘noble experiment’ – was undertaken to reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems, reduce the tax burden created by prisons and poorhouses, and improve health and hygiene in America. The results of that experiment clearly indicate that it was a miserable failure on all counts.” says Cato Institute, adding, “The evidence affirms sound economic theory, which predicts that prohibition of mutually beneficial exchanges is doomed to failure.”

Furquan Ameen Siddiqui writes in Hindustan Times, “It’s no secret that states with prohibition have failed to fully control the sale or consumption of alcohol. Nagaland has been a dry state since 1989. But it borders Assam, which helps in keeping an uninterrupted flow of alcohol into the state. But just across the border, on the road that enters Assam from Nagaland’s Dimapur, one can spot rows of liquor shops and makeshift bars. It is not difficult to find pubs hidden in residential complexes in Dimapur either.”

“… prohibition has failed to endure in India, be it in Tamil Nadu or Maharashtra, except parts of Gujarat. There are reports no doubt that illegal drinking does take place. So the state exchequer misses out on the revenue except on what is sold on the permits,” writes Prafull Goradia in The Pioneer.

Aakar Patel writes in Outlook, “Bihar is ruled by Nitish Kumar. He claims that his ideology is Lohiate, meaning that it comes from Rammanohar Lohia. I have Lohia’s collected works in nine volumes and in them there is not much mention of prohibition, only casual references. Unlike Gandhi, Lohia does not offer us lectures on how terrible alcohol consumption is. In one place (Volume 6) Lohia attacks the President of India for being a patron of the Calcutta Club, a place, he writes, whose main activity centres around wine drinking.”


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