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Nagaland ‘wet’ after 23 yrs of prohibition

Kohima, Feb. 16: After 23 years of prohibition act, Nagaland has remained a wet state in the country.

The state government passed a Nagaland Liquor Prohibition Act in 1989, but it has become a mockery as flow of India-made foreign liquor (IMFL) has increased manifold through liquor barons and bootleggers.

The IMFLs are easily available even in grocery, confectionery and garment shops, restaurants and hotels. In a place like Kohima, even paan shops are doing brisk business in IMFLs.

Jail Colony and Chandmari in Kohima have become the most sought after joints as liquors of all brands are easily available in almost all the shops which remain open till late at night. The authorities, however, have remained mute spectators.

Several top militants have become bootleggers in Dimapur, the crime hub of the Northeast. There are also thousands of booze joints in Kohima and Dimapur alone where liquors of all brands are sold openly. The state had prohibited sale of IMFL, but local brews like Zutho are exempted from prohibition.

Recently, the state government had moved for partial lifting of the prohibition but it was strongly opposed by the Church and the Naga Mothers’ Association. They have demanded an amendment to the prohibition act.

The state government’s argument was that for tourism industry at least there should be a partial lifting of prohibition which was not accepted by the Church and the mothers.

Nagaland is losing Rs 750 crore annually because of prohibition, but the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) which says it would fight tooth and nail against lifting of prohibition argued that life is more precious than Rs 750 crore. “Life is more important than Rs. 750 crore,” the general secretary of the NBCC, Rev. Anajo Keikung, said.

Places like Lahorijan, Khatkhati and Bakojan have become centres of manufacturing spurious liquors Hundreds of booze joints had flourished in these areas. The state government said there was shortage of staff to impose prohibition act in the state. President of Naga Mothers’ Association, Abeiu-u Meru said it was a shame to talk of prohibition when alcohol was flowing like water in Nagaland and demanded amendment to the act.

The NBCC had criticised state government for encouraging and allowing free flow of liquor particularly during important occasions and festivals. The Church said VIPs’ vehicles and police vehicles were also being used to ferry IMFL. The state government said as of now there was no proposal for lifting of the prohibition act. Excise minister M.C. Konyak said there was opposition from the Church and Naga Mothers’ Association. He said the state was losing huge revenue because of the prohibition act.

Konyak said there was no plan for discussion with the people on the prohibition act in the near future.

Konyak admitted that state loses over Rs 750 crore annually. There were reports of bootleggers in nexus with the police so that truckloads of IMFL could cross all police and excise checkgates.

A bottle of McDowell Rum that costs Rs 130 in Assam costs Rs 200 in Nagaland.