Aizawl, July 10: In a bold move that defied influential churches, the Lal Thanhawla-led Congress government in Mizoram has adopted a new liquor bill to replace the 17-year-old controversial dry law.
The Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control) Bill 2014, introduced by excise and narcotics minister R. Lalzirliana, was passed after a hot debate. Six Opposition MLAs staged a walkout in protest against the new bill that would allow opening of liquor shops and distilleries.
Lalzirliana introduced the bill despite vehement opposition from the Mizoram Presbyterian Church, the largest denomination in the Christian-dominated state. The Presbyterian Church, which has more than 50 per cent of the state’s population as members, had organised mass prayers in all the member churches across the state twice this year demanding that the dry law be put in place.
It also displayed posters in the city decrying the government’s decision to lift the prohibition.
Altogether, 25 of the 40 members in the Assembly participated in the discussion which was believed to be the most-watched Assembly session. Many people in government offices and homes were glued to their TVs while the debate was in progress, a scene rarely witnessed during Assembly sessions.
All the Opposition members opposed the bill in their apparent attempt to appease the influential churches.
Introducing the bill, Lalzirliana said the total prohibition of liquor had to be lifted as it failed to stop what it meant to stop.
“After deliberate discussion on the study group’s report, it was strongly felt that the total prohibition be lifted and control liquor instead,” Lalzirliana said.
The study group, constituted by the previous Congress government, observed that the total prohibition of liquor was a “total” failure.
The study group had further tasked the psychology department of Mizoram University to conduct a research on the consequences of prohibition.
Quoting its report, Lalzirliana said the number of people admitted to hospital because of alcohol consumption has considerably increased after the prohibition was imposed in 1997.
“As the prohibition only increased the sale of spurious liquor, we strongly felt the need to lift the prohibition so that those people who cannot do without drinks can find good quality liquor at cheaper prices,” he said.
He also refuted the churches’ allegations that the government was tempted by the huge revenue to be earned from liquor.
Interestingly, Lalzirliana, who belongs to Presbyterian Church, also participated in the mass prayer last Sunday night at his local church.
“I asked God to prevent me from introducing the bill in the Assembly if that is what he really wanted,” he said.
“While providing good quality liquor to eligible drinkers, we will strictly deal with people causing public nuisance under the influence of alcohol, illicit manufacturing and sale of liquor and driving under the influence of alcohol,” Lalzirliana said.