Manipur govt in a bind over prohibition

The Manipur government is willing to lift prohibition, but has not been able to take a decision as it apprehends objections from the strong anti-liquor lobby.

By Khelen Thokchom in Imphal
  • Published 1.07.15
  •  
Okram Ibobi Singh

Imphal, June 30: The Manipur government is willing to lift prohibition, but has not been able to take a decision as it apprehends objections from the strong anti-liquor lobby.

The cash-strapped Okram Ibobi Singh government is sniffing major revenue from sale of liquor in the form of excise duty if the "dry state" tag is withdrawn, but likely objection from the anti-liquor lobby is forcing the state government to tread gingerly on the issue.

"It is about time the prohibition is withdrawn. The state can earn huge revenue from excise duties. The government is seriously looking into the matter. But we cannot take a decision on this because the anti-liquor lobby is likely to oppose it," Ibobi Singh who is also the finance minister, told the Assembly today.

Manipur became a dry state in 1991 during the time of the R.K. Ranbir Singh government. Majority of the people and government authorities, however, acknowledge that prohibition is a complete failure in Manipur and want to lift it.

Owing to the presence of a strong anti-liquor lobby, the state government and those in favour of legalising sale of liquor could not demand the lifting openly.

"Prohibition is not socially and economically profitable in Manipur. Despite the ban, all kinds of liquor are available in the state at exorbitant prices," Amar Yumnam, an economics teacher of Manipur University, said.

Ibobi Singh said barring Manipur and Nagaland, none of the northeastern states is dry. Tripura earned revenue of Rs 400 to Rs 500 crore annually from excise duties.

"Tamil Nadu earns a revenue of Rs 25,000 crore. Therefore, the state could implement the Food Security Act easily. But because of lack of resources, Manipur has not been able to implement the act. Lifting prohibition will help the state implement the act," Ibobi Singh said.

He said the state government's plan now is to consult citizens' organisations, public leaders and social workers on the issue so that the government could take a final decision.

Ibobi Singh also said his government was considering sale of country brew outside the state.

"There is a big demand for Manipur's country brew outside the state. We are sure that our brew can bring huge revenue. We all need to seriously discuss the issue of liquor."

NCP member L. Ibomcha Singh, who raised the issue while participating in the budget discussion, urged the government to stop the practice of destroying seized Indian made foreign liquor by the excise department.

"The government can earn some revenue if we can sell confiscated liquor to security forces among others, if possible," Ibomcha Singh said.

Welcoming this suggestion, Ibobi Singh said he would look into the matter.