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regular-article-logo Thursday, 29 February 2024

Rs 4-lakh relief for Bihar hooch victims’ kin

This will be applicable with retrospective effect from April 1, 2016 — the date from which a partial liquor ban was imposed in Bihar

Dev Raj Patna Published 18.04.23, 04:56 AM
Nitish Kumar

Nitish Kumar File picture

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar changed his stand on prohibition on Monday and announced Rs 4-lakh compensation for the families of each of the hooch victims.

This will be applicable with retrospective effect from April 1, 2016 — the date from which a partial liquor ban was imposed in Bihar.

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The prohibition was made total from April 5 of the same year.

“The dependents of the people who lost their lives to hooch since April 1, 2016, will be given Rs 4 lakh from the chief minister’s relief fund. It is a very sad occurrence when people hailing from common, poor families, die of consuming poisonous liquor,” Nitish said.

“I have decided that if the members of the families of those who died provide written details about the deceased and information about the place where they purchased liquor and consumed it to the concerned district magistrates, the suffering families will be given Rs 4 lakh as help,” he added.

Nitish’s announcement is a reversal of his stance that the government will not provide relief to lawbreakers, and that “those who drink would die” if somebody gives them spurious liquor.

The chief minister took the decision in the wake of over 30 hooch deaths in different villages of the East Champaran district last week. Many people are still battling for their lives in hospitals and the death toll is expected to rise further.

“I feel very sad and pained over how people drink and lose their lives. This is happening despite so much effort.

"We are in favour of prohibition and encourage people not to drink, but I have noticed that people are drinking and losing their lives despite making them understand the dangers of consuming liquor,” the chief minister further said.

Prohibition is in its eighth year in Bihar and the chief minister pointed out that Mahatma Gandhi was completely against drinking and a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has also highlighted the ill effects of liquor consumption.

“Still such incidents (hooch deaths) are happening. We will provide help but the affected families will have to give us assurance that they will not associate with liquor again,” the chief minister added.

Since 2016, Bihar has witnessed several hundred people losing their lives after consuming hooch. The incidents gathered pace since 2021.

Around 220 people died of consuming spurious liquor in 2022. The toll this year has crossed 40.

Previously, Nitish had softened his stand on people’s arrest for drinking and tweaked the law to include a provision of allowing first-time offenders to walk free on the payment of a fine of Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000. This was done in the face of sharp criticism of the prohibition law by the Patna high court and the Supreme Court.

The chief minister and Janata Dal United (JDU) leader is striving for a broad-based Opposition unity to take on the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. With his ambition to lead the united Opposition, he is expected to soften prohibition further because he could be questioned whether he intends to implement it all over the country.

Moreover, sources in the JDU said that Nitish is wary about prohibition costing him votes in the polls. There are indications that the party lost the Kurhani Assembly bypoll in December because the constituency boasted of the arrest of several thousand people for consuming liquor. The votes of their families went against the party.

Bihar has witnessed around 4.7 lakh arrests for flouting prohibition since it was implemented.

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