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Booze battle: Teachers threaten agitation against Bihar govt's order

They have expressed fear that the government would now turn them into scapegoats for any violations of prohibition law and liquor mafia would target them for snitching

Dev Raj Patna Published 30.01.22, 02:13 AM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets defence minister Rajnath Singh as he arrives to attend the Beating Retreat ceremony in New Delhi  on Saturday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets defence minister Rajnath Singh as he arrives to attend the Beating Retreat ceremony in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI Photo

The Nitish Kumar administration has drafted Bihar’s government schoolteachers into the battle to enforce prohibition, ordering them to gather intelligence on people flouting the liquor ban and inform the enforcement agencies.

Teachers have threatened a state-wide agitation from Sunday against the “shameful” order.


“All principals, teachers (male and female), shiksha sevaks (who bring un-enrolled children to schools) and members of the school education committee of all primary, middle and high schools should be directed to identify people who stealthily consume liquor or supply it, and inform on the telephone numbers of the prohibition department,” a letter issued on Friday by the education department additional chief secretary, Sanjay Kumar, said.

The letter gave two telephone numbers and as many toll-free numbers which the teachers may call to provide the information.

“The identity of those (teachers) who provide information will be kept a secret. It should also be ensured that those who consume intoxicants in a hidden manner do not use the school premises after the classes are over,” the letter added.

The letter was marked to all the regional education deputy directors, district education officers and district programme officers.

The teachers have expressed fear that the government would now turn them into scapegoats for any violations of the prohibition law and the liquor mafia would target them for snitching.

Asked about the need for the letter, Sanjay Kumar told The Telegraph: “Teachers are present in all the villages in the state and we want to associate them with this campaign.”

He denied that the task would hamper teaching in the schools and said that teachers should do it because they are part of society.

Bihar has around 4.5 lakh government school teachers. The state came under a total ban on the consumption, trade and manufacture of liquor in April 2016.

Primary school teachers have decided to burn copies of Friday’s order on Sunday and launch an agitation till the order is withdrawn.

“We condemn this order. This is shameful,” Pradeep Kumar Pappu, president of the Bihar Rajya Prarambhik Shikshak Sangh, an association of government primary school teachers, told this newspaper.

“Police and other enforcement agencies have failed on the prohibition front, so the government wants to make teachers the sacrificial goat. It will start blaming us whenever anybody drinks anywhere.”

Pappu added: “And who will save the teachers and their families when the liquor mafia targets them? If you don’t want anybody to drink on school premises, post police guards there.”

Abhishek Kumar, a teacher at the Bapu Smarak High School in Patna, stressed that teachers were already engaged in “around three dozen activities”, including the population census, counting of animals, midday meal scheme, election duty, the running of Covid-19 quarantine centres and various awareness campaigns.

“A few years ago the government had ordered teachers to click pictures of people defecating in the open and submit them. They were also asked to click pictures of toilets being constructed with government funds. The order was withdrawn after the teachers rebelled,” Abhishek said.

Asked about the fears relating to teacher security, Bihar education minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary told this newspaper: “Give me one instance where (the name of anyone providing) secret information about the flouting of prohibition was leaked. So many raids have happened in the state but nothing about the informants was ever leaked.”

Chitranjan Gagan, spokesperson for the Opposition RJD, said: “The state government is least bothered about education and the welfare of teachers. So, it’s trying to use them for all kinds of activities. The latest order shows that prohibition has failed in Bihar.”

During the six years of prohibition, the liquor mafia has taken deep roots in Bihar and allegedly built a nexus with the enforcement agencies.

Hooch tragedies have also increased, claiming 145 lives in the state over the past one year. A large quantity of liquor has been seized in the last six years and lakhs of people, mostly the poor, have been arrested.

Recently, Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana criticised the “lack of foresight” behind Bihar’s prohibition law that has clogged Patna High Court with bail applications, prompting state government officials to say the law would be suitably amended.

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