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Shop cap, tax to curb liquor sale

Chief minister Nitish Kumar (right) at Samvad in Patna on the occasion of Alcohol Prohibition Day on Monday. Picture by Deepak Kumar

The state government has decided not to increase the number of liquor shops in the state to build a healthy Bihar.

“The number of liquor shops has come down from 5,733 in 2011 to 5,624 this year. The number of shops will not go beyond it. The government will also take steps to stop the sale of spurious liquor in the state,” deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi said on Monday at an event organised to mark the Alcohol Prohibition Day, an initiative started by the state government last year.

He added: “Country-made liquor in pouches would not be sold anymore. They would be replaced by sealed bottles to reduce the chances of spurious liquor sale.”

The revenue earned from liquor sale has gone up by more than six times since the JD(U)-BJP alliance came to power in Bihar. Highlighting the figures, chief minister Nitish Kumar, who was also present at the event, said he was not keen on increasing the excise revenue.

“The excise revenue earned in 2005-2006 was Rs 329 crore. It has increased to Rs 2,045 crore in 2011-12. I am not interested in increasing the excise revenue. The government is focused on eradicating the ill-effects of liquor from the society,” Nitish said.

After Nitish revealed that he had directed the excise and prohibition department to raise the taxes and duties on liquor in the state to deter people from falling into the liquor trap, sources told The Telegraph that a raise in the licence fee and the duty on all kinds of liquor was on the anvil.

Nawal Kishore Singh, a senior member of the Foreign Liquor Retailers’ Association, said if the government was mulling a raise in taxes, prices of all forms of alcohol would increase. “According to our information, the excise and prohibition department is in the final leg of making changes in liquor prices. A small bottle of whisky that costs Rs 70 might go up to Rs 100. The cost of beer might go up from the present Rs 75 to Rs 90 or above. The price of country-made liquor would go up by Rs 15-40,” Singh said.

Nitish gave a justification for increasing the prices of liquor, though.

“Those who want to drink will drink. The government is trying to build a scenario in which people would not drink liquor at all. I have directed the officials to increase the taxes on alcohol so that people avoid drinking. We will ensure that spurious liquor is not sold. Only authentic ones will be sold so that the government gets the revenue. The campaign against consumption of alcohol will continue. People will gradually understand that liquor is injurious to health,” the chief minister said.

While Nitish was advocating against liquor sale, members of National Alliance of Women’s Organisation (Bihar Chapter) and Bihar Women’s Network organised nukkad natak (street play) near JP roundabout to protest against the “increase in the number of liquor shops in the state”.

Around 700 women from 18 districts participated in a protest march. The co-ordinator of Bihar Women’s Network, Archana Kumari, said: “The number of liquor shops has increased and the government has failed to take any initiative to control it. The reason behind most crimes in the state is liquor. It has also increased atrocities against women. People living in rural areas spend 25 per cent of their earning on liquor and men beat up their wives under its influence.”