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Call for debate on prohibition

Kohima, July 24: The state government was not averse to lifting of prohibition in Nagaland and called for a full debate in the Assembly.

In response to criticisms, chief minister T.R. Zeliang suggested a full debate on the issue and hinted his government’s willingness to lift the act. “If the Opposition agrees, we can have a full debate in the ongoing Assembly session,” he told the House today.

The debate over prohibition comes against the backdrop of the Mizoram government’s decision to partially lift the prohibition act.

The Congress has taken serious note of the inflow of alcohol manufactured by Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Burma and China, through the porous border. Congress MLA Khekaho Assumi said foreign manufactured brands were easily available in Kohima, Dimapur and other parts of the state.

Sources said spurious Indian-made foreign liquor bottles also reached the state from neighbouring Assam towns like Lahorijan and Khatkhati. Assumi said Nagaland had become the “wettest dry state”.

“Please don’t make a mockery of the prohibition law,” he said. Assumi said lifting of the law would contribute revenue to the exchequer. Assumi said his party supports the prohibition act but since it has failed miserably, the government should take measures to either lift it or implement it properly.

Leader of the Congress Legislature Party, Tokheho Yepthomi, said, “There are bars just outside the East Police station in Dimapur while dozens of paan shops sell IMFL in Minister’s Hills in Kohima. Alcohol is available in the official residences of ministers and parliamentary secretaries. Why allow this?”

He said whether the state government lifted the prohibition or whether the church was against it, people will continue to drink and therefore the government should take certain measures on whether to lift the prohibition act completely or enforce it properly.

Zeliang said the excise department was facing a staff crunch, which was a problem in enforcing the act. He said the government is taking steps to recruit more personnel but it was not averse to the suggestion of lifting the act.

T. Torechu, parliamentary secretary for excise, said the department has booked 721 people under the prohibition act this year for illegally transporting IMFL bottles. The state was losing around Rs 70 crore annually owing to the prohibition act, sources said.