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Bihar's latest hooch tragedy reveals why prohibition is a perfect example of bad governance

Charu Kartikeya | Updated on: 30 October 2017, 19:09 IST
Bottles of country liquor being destroyed on 31 March 2016, on the outskirts of Patna, India. Acting on his poll promise, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced ban on country liquor that will be coming into force from 1 April. The partial ban would not cover the sale of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL), which would be available in 656 shops within urban limits, but not in rural areas, of the state's 38 districts. This would bring about a sharp reduction in the number of total liquor outlets, which stood at 6,000 till 31 March (Photo by AP Dube/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Prohibition and hooch tragedies are moving along side by side in Bihar. A year after the death of 16 people in one such tragedy in Gopalganj district, five men have died in Rohtas district after consuming country liquor from illegal units.

A joint police team from three districts has now launched a crackdown, raiding such units and destroying hundreds of litres of seized illicit liquor. Ironically, the survivors have been taken into custody.

The incident has highlighted at least three important issues.

– First, prohibition is not working in Bihar and the sale of liquor continues unabated.

– Second, the ban may have only given impetus to the illicit liquor industry, encouraging an illegal act and endangering the lives of those who consume such liquor.

– Third, prohibition laws have thrown people in a quandary – when people fall sick after consuming illicit liquor, their near ones do not take them to hospitals for fear of arrest.

In a nutshell, Bihar's booze-ban is beginning to stand out as a perfect example of bad governance. In the absence of licensed shops selling liquor, a local flower and some easily available raw material is all it takes for enterprising individuals to brew country liquor. It is available easily, is sold cheap and involves almost the entire community, thereby minimising prospects of being reported to the police. Why would people not buy it?

It's not like those who consume this kind of alcohol do not know that it can be injurious to their health. What happened in Rohtas was neither the country's nor Bihar's first hooch tragedy. However, the need for alcohol drives people to make 'arrangements'. The rich simply bribe their way to a bottle, the poor make do with duplicates.

Call it Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's political strategy or misplaced enthusiasm, but prohibition is killing the people of his state. It is time he took some corrective measures.

Apart from the many states that flirted with liquor-ban but eventually dropped the idea, Gujarat stands out as the perfect example of the pointlessness of prohibition. In spite of the ban in force for over half a century now, liquor is readily available in many parts of the state. One only needs to know the right people and the right tricks to access it.

Kumar must accept that prohibition will not work. Why should the state be in the business of regulating people's eating and drinking habits, anyway? Those who want to drink should be allowed to have their peg. Those who do not know how to practice moderation are themselves responsible for their plight.

If the argument is that liquor makes people indulge in violence at home as well as outside, that should be treated as a law and order issue.

If it really wants to intervene, the state can run publicity campaigns cautioning people about the ill-effects of excessive consumption of alcohol. Banning the bottle is no solution and if Kumar doesn't learn this lesson soon, more such tragedies will occur and more lives will be lost.

First published: 30 October 2017, 19:09 IST
 
Charu Kartikeya @CharuKeya

Assistant Editor at Catch, Charu enjoys covering politics and uncovering politicians. Of nine years in journalism, he spent six happily covering Parliament and parliamentarians at Lok Sabha TV and the other three as news anchor at Doordarshan News. A Royal Enfield enthusiast, he dreams of having enough time to roar away towards Ladakh, but for the moment the only miles he's covering are the 20-km stretch between home and work.

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