Bihar: Nitish Kumar upbeat on booze-ban effect
Chief minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday claimed that prohibition was continuously improving in Bihar with more people getting rid of liquor consumption.
He also appealed to the officials and the public to help make the liquor ban successful in the state and vowed Rs 1 lakh to the people who want to quit toddy (fermented palm sap) – based livelihood to adopt other legal activities for a living.
“Prohibition is continuously improving. There is no doubt that more people are giving up liquor consumption. But there are always some people who do mischief. The liquor ban is very much in the interest of the people. There are some people who do not appreciate good work,” Nitish said while talking to reporters on the sidelines of an event to mark Deaddiction Day in Patna.
Deaddiction Day had been celebrated in the state since November 26, 2011. He had taken oath as the chief minister in 2005 on the same day.
“Our view, in the beginning, was to spread awareness about the ills of drinking and encourage prohibition, but we saw that liquor consumption was not decreasing. The women demanded a ban on liquor in the run-up to the 2015 Assembly elections and I implemented it after winning the polls,” Nitish said.
Bihar first went for a partial prohibition on April 1, 2016, with a ban on country-made liquor while allowing shops to operate in urban areas. However, a total liquor ban was imposed on April 5, 2016.
“Women have shared the benefits of prohibition with me. It has improved the household environment, improved the expenditure on food and the education of children,” Nitish said.
“Ninety per cent of the people in the society are good. Only 10 per cent are mischief-makers. We have to keep making efforts to improve them. The police also take action against such people,” he added.
Nitish also stressed the state government’s move to encourage the use of neera (unfermented fresh palm sap) instead of toddy. Toddy trade and consumption are also banned under prohibition.
“However, some people are not understanding this. We have initiated a sustained livelihood programme for people dependent on toddy for a living. We are providing financial help of up to Rs 1 lakh to switch over to neera production or start rearing cattle or goat, indulge in poultry, beekeeping or open small shops,” Nitish said.
The chief minister’s words came at a time when people and political parties are pointing out the easy availability of liquor in the black market that has cropped up due to a strong nexus of the mafia, enforcement agencies, and politicians across the state.
Even Nitish’s allies – leaders from the RJD, Congress, and the Hindustani Awam Morcha Secular – are criticising the prohibition and demanding the opening of liquor shops.
Prohibition has led to the arrest of over 4.33 lakh people in Bihar since April 2016, clogging the jails and courts. A majority of the arrested people are from a poor socio-economic background, leading to assumptions that the rich and affluent have been above the ban.