The newly elected Mizo National Front (MNF) government on Tuesday announced closure of liquor shops run by government agencies in Mizoram.
The move is being seen as the first step towards the pre-poll promise of reimposing total prohibition made by the ruling party if it comes to power after the Assembly polls.
Chief minister Zoramthanga, who was sworn in on Saturday, told reporters on Tuesday that the cabinet meeting held after the Assembly session in the afternoon unanimously resolved to ban the sale of alcohol by government agencies with immediate effect. He added that all liquor warehouses would also be closed down. There are nine liquor shops run by government agencies across the state.
The state government also announced dry days from December 21 this year to January 14, 2019, in a first step to impose total prohibition, four years after the Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition & Control) Act was introduced and enforced by the previous government.
Zoramthanga said privately-run liquor shops would be closed down after a new legislation is passed.
“Banning of all private liquor shops or lifting the MLPC Act could not be done immediately as a new legislation has to be passed in the Assembly. It is not possible to pass a new legislation due to time constraint with Christmas and New Year drawing close. As a first step towards imposing total prohibition, the cabinet announced closure of all government liquor shops and dry days for 25 days from December 21,” he said.
The MLPC Act, which allowed opening of wine shops, was introduced by the Lal Thanhawla-led Congress government, replacing the 17-year-old The Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act introduced by the previous MNF government in 1997.
The MLPC Act came into force in January 2015 and the first wine shop was opened in the state in March of that year.
Excise department sources said the revenue earned by the government from liquor trade, since prohibition was lifted in 2015, was Rs 60.6 crore in 2015-16, Rs 72.26 crore in 2016-17 and Rs 65.68 crore in 2017-18. They said there are 54 wine shops, two bars and one beer micro-brewery. Directly or indirectly, about 75 families are dependent on the trade, an official said.
Before the announcement, a three-day Assembly session began on Tuesday with the oath-taking of new legislators.
Pro tem speaker Lalrinawma administered oath of office and secrecy to all 40 legislators.
The House also unanimously elected Lalrinliana Sailo as Speaker. Sailo, who has been elected for a fourth consecutive term since 2003, quit the Congress and joined the MNF before the polls. This time, he was elected from Chalfilh, a constituency that the MNF won for the first time since the 1987 Assembly election. Delivering his maiden address in this House, Zoramthanga appealed to all members to set an example for the rest of the country in maintaining decorum in the Assembly.