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Nitish Kumar’s Liquor And Sand Mining Bans Have Only Affected The Downtrodden

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Bihar remains an important state from the social and political perspectives as it stands on the crossroads – having hyper-variable rates of governance. The recent communal clashes made it to the headlines of newspapers, both online and offline. With over 80% of Bihar’s population residing in rural areas, Bihar remains a unique challenge for any party attempting to rule the state.

Bihar under Nitish Kumar has a history of the most complex and confusing arithmetic of power politics. He assumed power as the CM with BJP as an ally (which ended in 2013), but he continued to be the CM with the unconditional support of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) till 2015. In November 2015, he came back to power through a Mahagathbandhan or Grand Alliance with the RJD and the Congress. This Grand Alliance ended in July 2017. Once again, he retained his position as the CM, allying once again with the BJP.

Veteran journalist Sankarshan Thakur’s book “Single Man: The Life & Times of Nitish Kumar of Bihar” has spelled out the mindset of Nitish Kumar. The book says, “Satta prapt karoonga, by hook or by crook, lekin satta leke achha kaam karoonga (Will come to power, by hook or by crook, but will do good things after coming to power).” Caste is a decisive factor in Bihar. ‘Sushasan’ (good governance) is yet to be acted upon with the utmost seriousness.

The recent decisions of Nitish Kumar have affected one group severely. The liquor ban was enacted to lower the rate of domestic violence in the state. It started with a ban on country-made liquor, which later turned into a complete ban on liquor of every type. According to fresh statistics, of the 7,735 persons arrested due to anti-liquor laws till January this year in the Gaya district alone, 3,975 of them are Dalits. Of the roughly 40 cases where persons have been convicted under the ‘dry law’, 25 persons are Dalits. The first conviction under the law, in Jehanabad, was that of a Dalit. A Bihar youth, who used to earn ₹300 per day as a labourer, has now turned into a bootlegger earning ₹1000 per day.

The administration and the police act on rickshaw pullers and not on the privileged classes who outsource liquor through illegal means. Even women and the extreme backward classes (EBC) are not spared from moral policing by the Bihar police. The emergence of  the liquor mafia who control the illegal liquor trade is also a new challenge for ‘Sushasan babu’.

In spite of the stringent law, liquor is sold at double the previous rates, and demands have skyrocketed. In many regions of Bihar, obtaining liquor is an easy task – it’s just money that matters. Even the west Patna region receives a special delivery of banned liquor, as reported by veteran journalist Sankarshan Thakur in the month of January.

When Nitish Kumar assumed power in 2005, there were approximately 2,000 liquor shops in Bihar. According to a survey, the number of liquor shops rose to an alarming number (14,000) in just nine years. With a vision of lowering domestic violence and crime in the state, Nitish ended up creating a draconian liquor prohibition law whose victims are largely the downtrodden people of the society. The liquor ban is just like a padlocked gate with no walls to flank it. It is said that the Nitish Kumar government’s attention on enforcing the liquor ban is so intense that it has taken its eyes off from the maintenance of law and order. Loot, dacoity, kidnapping for ransom and murder continue to happen in Bihar.

Secondly, the ban on sand mining by the government has created a deep impact over the lives of many. After breaking up with the Grand Alliance, the Nitish Kumar government came up with a new sand mining policy named the ‘Bihar Minor Mineral Rules, 2017‘ which was enacted with the aim of suppressing the sand mafia. Instead, a sand crisis occurred which has halted the constructions of government buildings, apartments, and other projects.

Scarcity of sand in rural Bihar has angered daily wage workers, mostly the youth who work for small private construction sites. According to Arvind Chaudhary, Principle Secretary, Rural Development Department, making 4 lakh houses for the rural poor by the month of March under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna Gramin (PMAY-G) remains a distant dream. Besides, toilet construction under the Swachh Bharat Mission has also made slow progress.

According to a local news report, the state government is generating revenue by selling sand to neighbouring Uttar Pradesh at a price much lower than the market rate.

These experiments are imposing a heavy price on the people of Bihar. It seems the government’s main objective is just to take decisions which make headlines for newspapers. It does this by severely affecting the lives of the working class. The liquor ban needs practical implementation with unbiased reachability, curbing the liquor mafia and illegal trading without harming even one section of the society. The sand mining ban has also damaged many lives due to unemployment and has slowed down infrastructural growth. This too needs a correction. Nitish Kumar’s greed to be in power, either by hook or crook, and his ignorance of the pros and cons of policy making is derailing the state’s overall growth, thereby affecting human development.

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  1. Me Bhi Neta

    Hello Friend!
    So many hurdles to face for getting fruitful results when we are trying to implement crucial reforms whether it is in our private lives or in political arena. Although your article is good enough to know the political system in Bihar, we hope and believe it will take some time for better results.

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