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Saturday , August 20 , 2016
 
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Call for a middle path

- The Telegraph Bihar Debate 2016, living up to its promise of fireworks, saw speaker after speaker using a rare combination of their razor-sharp wit interspersed with logical reasoning and anecdotes

THE MOTION

In the opinion of the House, Bihar model of prohibition should be the countrywide norm

DEFEATED

POWER SPEAKER

FOR 

Pratishtha Singh 
Lecturer of Italian literature at the University of Delhi 

While I believe that prohibition will not solve the problem, this is the first step towards reformation. Even I am occasional when it comes to drinks but I am ready to give it up. 
I have spoken to many women in different parts of Bihar and India and they have collectively said they want a ban on liquor. 

Independence cannot be the reason for one’s insecurity. Even I want to drive without having to stop at red lights but I cannot do that, as it will pose a danger to many and I will be penalised for the same. 

Rural India wants to live and doesn’t care what India wants to know. Alcohol addiction is worse than drug addiction and you don’t realise that you have become a liquor addict. The fact lies that liquor addiction makes a person very aggressive, thereby leading to serious criminal incidents like murder like that of Nirbhaya in Delhi. 

We always say laws are not strict enough in India. If they are, people complain. What do you (people) want? 

Aha line: If Gujarat can prosper by eating dhoklas, why can’t Bihar with its litti-chokha?

Against

Satyajit Singh 
Managing director, Shakti Sudha Industries and chairman, Bihar committee, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Bihar is the land of Gautam Buddha, who told us to follow the middle path. He never asked people to adhere to the extreme path. I request the government to adhere to the middle path and phase out liquor slowly, else, it would be an insult to the Buddha. 

The Nitish Kumar government opened liquor shops in 8,000 panchayats and made people drink for 10 years to help check spurious liquor. It generated an estimated Rs 30,000 crore in revenue and the growth story of Bihar was scripted. 
Investments came to the state. But if a policy is changed overnight, it breaks the trust of investors, which is paramount for industry. Do we want to make a trust deficit country? If there is no investment, then there will be no revenue. How will development take place? 

You quote Gandhi on prohibition. But he opposed Rowlatt Act, which decreed people from being arrested without warrants. Today, your laws are advocating similar things. 

Aha line: The state is now imposing taxes on samosas and excavation of mud

FOR

KC Tyagi 
Former Rajya Sabha MP and JDU secretary general and spokesperson 

The prohibition issue is not limited to Bihar alone, as similar laws are in force in states like Kerala and Gujarat. 
However, it has become a political issue only in Bihar. The Delhi government recently proposed not to open new liquor shops. 

Liquor consumption is a social evil and a burden on the state’s economy. Loss of revenue accruing from prohibition does not matter for the government because it concerns half of the state’s population. 

The recent (Gopalganj) hooch tragedy is not a fallout of prohibition. Consumption of spurious liquor has claimed lives in states like Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Bengal in the past. Though no hue and cry was raised in those instances, the one in Bihar has snowballed into a major political issue. 

Ninety-five per cent of the state’s population cannot afford to consume liquor, compelling the government to enforce total prohibition in Bihar. 

Aha line: 95% people in Bihar cannot afford even half a bottle of whisky

FOR

Raghuvansh Prasad Singh 
RJD leader and former Union rural development minister 

Prophet Mohammad had called liquor the mother of all sins. 

Mahatma Gandhi said if he were to become a dictator for an hour, the first thing he would do would be to ban alcohol. Gautam Buddha, Lord Mahavir, Kabir were all opposed to drinking. 

Criminals cannot commit crime without drinking. Liquor is a social evil and all great personalities have spoken against it. 
People drink despite knowing of its ill-effects. Thousands from Bihar go to AIIMS-New Delhi with liver and kidney diseases. 

The RJD has always campaigned against liquor. The Bihar government took excise revenue from Rs 200 crore to Rs 4,000 crore with our slogan “Madhushala nahi, gaushala, paathshala chahiye (We don’t want bars, we want cowsheds & schools)”. 

Prohibition must be imposed in the entire country for which laws must be amended. I am against imposition of community fine for violation and allowing liquor manufactured in Bihar to be sent to other states. 

Aha line: Should the freedom to drink be used to do wrong?

Against

Jayaprakash Narayan 
General secretary, Foundation for Democratic Reforms 

Prohibition would convert the whole state into a jail, as the related laws are atrocious and have been imposed for short-term political gains. 

Prohibition will make politicians as well as bureaucrats unaccountable and corrupt. It will only encourage liquor mafia and bootleggers. Instead, the government should have regulated liquor sale. An additional 30-40 lakh prison cells would be needed to accommodate prohibition violators. 

It is a disaster-in-waiting. People will have to pay a heavy price in due course. Bihar would suffer a revenue loss of around Rs 4,000-5,000 crore, which is quite a significant amount for a state like Bihar. Even Telangana generates revenue of almost Rs 3,200 crore from liquor sale and is a major contributor to the state exchequer. 

As a policy, prohibition should not have been imposed upon the people. Rather, the government should have taken people into confidence before going for prohibition. 

Aha line: Don’t convert the state into a jail

Against

Sanjay Hegde 
Senior advocate, Supreme Court of India

Prohibition benefits a few sections of society in addition to women. It benefits bootleggers, which boosts crime syndicates. Next would be lawyers. Any prohibition law would be challenged for being unconstitutional, implying that a large chunk of Bihar’s money would go to lawyers in New Delhi and most prohibition laws have been upheld by the Supreme Court. 

Lawyers in Bihar would get paid for countless cases. The answer to social evils is not harsh laws. There should be a middle path. Habitual drinkers would find other avenues, leading to Gopalganj-like cases. Freedom is what is inherent to you, not a gift of law. To be free people, we need to free our mind and, to be tolerant society, we need to accept each other’s habits and faith. This (prohibition) is a right, which we have enjoyed for centuries. What a person does in the evening is his business. The state has no right to interfere. 

Aha line: Can you imagine the money we, lawyers, would make? Thank you, Nitish Kumar, there should be more 
chief ministers like you

Against

Ashok Malik 
Columnist and Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation 

While immoderate drinking is a problem and women don’t want men to drink and waste money, is the Bihar model of prohibition an answer? Prohibition has not worked anywhere, whether it’s US, Andhra Pradesh or Haryana, and it has been rolled back. 

In Gujarat, prohibition has led to rampant bootlegging. In old Bombay, prohibition had led to the emergence of the underworld, which also contributed to terrorism later. The issue of charging collective fines in form of penalties if one person is caught drinking is nothing but abhorrent. 

I am sure prohibition will end in Bihar close to 2019. The reason could be a deluge (tragedy) like that of Gopalganj or demands from people to end it or even leaders needing funds for elections. 

A story goes that once former PM Morarji Desai was on the same plane as artiste Bhimsen Joshi. Desai saw Joshi sipping something from his flask, which smelt like liquor and he charged: “Are you drinking? Why are you drinking?”
Joshi replied: “Prohibition is on land. Hum toh abhi hawa me hain (We are in air now).” 

Aha line: In India, it is easy to bring a bad law, it’s difficult to remove it

Pictures by Deepak Kumar, Nagendra Kumar Singh, Ashok Sinha, Ranjeet Kumar Dey and Sachin


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