By Harsh Mahaseth:
Nitish Kumar’s decision to declare Bihar a dry State from April 1, is being implemented rather strictly. The Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act that came into force on April 1, 2016, has restricted the manufacture, transport, sale and consumption of liquor in Bihar and with effective implementation the state was declared dry on April 6 itself! The penal provisions in the Act are stringent as there is a large fine as well as a large jail sentence for anyone caught violating the laws.
The establishment of check posts and barriers around the state has made it nearly impossible for those who wish to consume alcohol to source it. Following the ban the locals had begun crossing borders and going to neighbouring states or even to the neighbouring country of Nepal to enjoy liquor. In fact, according to a Times of India report, local hoteliers in Nepal claimed that their business had increased by two to three folds due to the ban on liquor in Bihar.
However, the Nitish Kumar Government plans to leave no stone unturned by stopping locals who had easy access to smuggle alcohol inside the state. The border checking has become tight and those who had crossed the border to enjoy liquor were detained in Nepal. The State Government has even requested the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation to keep a tight check in the airports and is willing to extend help in infrastructure such as x-ray screening machines for the checking of luggage.
This move to ban liquor in Bihar was not well accepted initially. Several articles shared their doubt on this blanket ban on alcohol saying that it will not reduce violence. However within a month of the ban we have seen a drastic change in the state that wouldn’t have been achieved just by increasing the taxes on alcoholic products.
The prohibition as well as pro-active policing have contributed to a decrease in crime rates in Bihar. The total crime rate in Bihar has reduced by 27 percent in the month of April according to the Bihar Government. Crimes such as murder, rape, domestic violence, atrocities against the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and riots have reduced. During a meeting held by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the Commissioner of Patna, Anand Kishore, stated this observation. He further said that the number of road accidents have also reduced since the ban.
This ban has brought a positive effect in the lives of the women in Bihar too. According to the National Family Health Survey report 46 percent of women have faced violence after their partner consumed alcohol. However after the ban and its strict enforcement it has been noted that these men returned home after work and didn’t beat up their wives. Money which was used for consuming alcohol now reaches the hands of the wives who can use it to support their child’s education or provide them food and clothing.
In 2006 it was Nitish Kumar’s policy to open licensed liquor shops in every panchayat and in many villages. This policy made drinking a habitual event for the men. So much so, that the state revenue rose ten folds from Rs. 350 crore in the year of 2004-2005 to over Rs.4,000 crore in the year of 2005-2006. However this did have tragic consequences as not just the old but also the young took up drinking causing an increase in the number of alcohol addicts in the state, according to Dipak Bharati, a well-known NGO activist in Madhubani, Bihar.
The move to ban liquor by Kumar could be seen as a way for him to repent what he had done earlier. With the successful implementation of the ban Nitish Kumar is ready to take this prohibition beyond Bihar. He has already urged the Uttar Pradesh to follow in the footsteps of its eastern neighbour. However, instead of banning liquor in Uttar Pradesh the base prices have been hiked because of which liquor stores have been earning more.
On B.R. Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary event in Patna, Kumar said that the Bihar may lose Rs. 5000 crore due to liquor ban but, the social benefits outweigh the loss. By not spending on alcohol and spending on other things that tax will still come to the government and the economy will prosper.