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Will the alcohol ban in Bihar actually affect the state?

In a state where the consumption of toddy and country liquor is nearly 16 times as much as refined liquor, it begs the question whether the liquor ban will really have an impact.

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The third most populous state in India is set to go dry from April 1, 2016. As per the announcement on Thursday by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the sale of alcohol will be banned from next April in his state. The rising protests by women, especially by women from the Dalit community and backward classes, prompted him to take it up as one of the election promises and he came through.Reports state that the Bihar government earned about Rs 3,500 crore in 2014 through taxes (15% of the government’s total tax intake) on the sale of alcohol. Thus, the government treasury would definitely take a big hit as a result of the ban. But what must be noted here is that Nitish Kumar has not clarified whether the ban is meant for refined and foreign liquor and/or toddy and country liquor.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Alcohol consumption data from India’s National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) reveals some interesting facts. As per the NSSO’s 2011-12 consumption data for the states, toddy is the most popular drink in rural areas with country liquor coming in second. Among the bigger states, the data reveals that Andhra Pradesh, followed by Assam, Jharkhand and Bihar, consumes the highest amount of toddy and country liquor.Bihar alcohol consumption per capita per week (NSSO 2011-12):Toddy and Country Liquor – 266 mlBeer, Foreign Liquor and Wine – 17 mlThe NSSO data also shows the direct correlation between income and alcohol consumption. If you look at the urban areas, it’s beer and refined liquor that’s consumed in larger quantities as compared to toddy and country liquor and vice versa.In Bihar, there has been a drastic decline in poverty levels (33.75% of people are BPL according to the 2011-12 report by the Planning Commission) but only 11.29% of the people live in urban areas according to the 2011 census.In a state where the consumption of toddy and country liquor is nearly 16 times as much as refined liquor, it begs the question whether the liquor ban will really have an impact. The only way Bihar can turn into a truly ‘dry state’ is if Nitish Kumar specifically includes toddy and country liquor in the ban.

Why Nitish Kumar’s plan to ban alcohol in Bihar is flawed

As we’ve seen over the years, both in India and abroad, a ban on alcohol seldom works.

Alcohol Ban

Sticking to one of his pre-election promises, Bihar Assembly elections, CM Nitish Kumar announced that alcohol will be banned in Bihar from April 1, 2016 which will be rather a cruel joke on alcohol-loving Biharis. The promise to ban alcohol was made to woo women voters who have been at the forefront of protests against rising liquor consumption in rural areas of the state. Bihar’s Excise and Prohibition Minister in Nitish’s cabinet, Abdul Jalil Mastan had said after taking office: “We will start work to impose a ban on liquor in Bihar. It would be visible in the next six months.”<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Before anyone cries that such a move is unconstitutional, it’s actually not. Alcohol is a state-subject and each state governments has the right to decide whether they want to ban it or not. The last state to bring in a liquor ban was Kerala, which decided to phase out hard liquor in the next ten years. Meanwhile, the consumption of liquor is already banned in states like Gujarat, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and the union territory of Lakshadweep.The alcohol issue in BiharThe alcohol issue in Bihar stemmed from the Nitish Kumar government’s decision to liberalise the state’s liquor policy in 2007 which helped shore up the funds. Big business arrived in the state, but the move was extremely unpopular in various areas. In 2013, the women in Rohtas district, led by Sunita Singh, started the ‘Pragatisheel Mahila Sangh’ to campaign against liquor shops in the state. Alcoholism was a significant problem in the region and even children would get addicted.She was quoted saying by Catch News: “We found that there are over 100 widows in villages like Karwandiya, Bansa and Sitabigha. Most of them had lost husbands due to alcohol addictions. We came to the conclusion that fighting petty vendors is not enough – we will have to wage a political struggle.”The agitation in turn reached Nitish Kumar who promised to ban alcohol if his government came to power. Sadly, we’ve learned the hard way that liquor bans seldom work. Why a ban won’t work While the issue raised by the women about liquor consumption is valid, we’ve learnt over the years that bans seldom work. They just push the alcohol consumption underground which then brings the criminal element into the picture. In the US, alcohol was prohibited from 1920 to 1933, an era known as Prohibition which showed why the banning was never a solution. People still got drunk, drunken driving was still a problem, men still beat up women and their child.There was the added issue of people drinking contraband alcohol which led to deaths sometimes from methyl alcohol poisoning and the law-enforcement officers were stretched thin trying to catch the people who sold contraband liquor (though it did lead to an awesome movie like The Untouchables). The Prohibition also accelerated the rise of the Italian Mafia (romanticised by the likes of Mario Puzo and Hollywood), who made supplying contraband their business and once alcohol was legalised moved on to a host of other avenues. Who it will hurt the mostThe ban on alcohol usually hurts the lowest strata of society the most. In 2015 in Mumbai over a hundred people were killed after consuming illegal hooch. In the last decade, over a thousand people have died due to hooch-related issues in West Bengal (156 people in 2011), Gujarat (136 people in 2009), Karnataka and Tamil Nadu (180 dead in 2008), Odisha ( 200 dead in 1992) and the worst Karnataka in 1981 when over 300 people died due to methyl alcohol poisoning. As we can see from the Gujarat example, a state which has had prohibition since its inception, the idea never worked. Sadly, Nitish Kumar’s hands were tied, and just as he had to include Yadav brothers in his cabinet, this was a pre-poll promise that he had to fulfill.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announces ban on sale of alcohol from April 1, 2016

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Thursday announced that sale of alcohol will be banned in the state from April 1 next year.

File photo

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Thursday announced that sale of alcohol will be banned in the state from April 1 next year.Keeping one of his promises made before the Bihar Assembly elections, Nitish Kumar said, “I know people will say that even after banning liquor it will be sold illegally, if it happens then we will deal with that strongly.”He further added, “Women in the state started an anti-liquor campaign, I really appreciated that. Those villages which will help us in our campaign against liquor will be awarded.”<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Meanwhile, LJP leader Chirag Paswan said, “Welcome move of banning sale of liquor. let’s see how successful it is.”According to reports, the Bihar government earned nearly Rs. 3,500 crore last year through taxes on the sale of alcohol.This is the first major announcement by Kumar since he was sworn in as Chief Minister for the fifth time last week.

Teetotalist state: Bihar government will ‘soon’ take steps to impose liquor ban in state

Patna: The Bihar government will soon take steps to impose a ban on liquor in the state, Excise and Prohibition Minister, Abdul Jalil Mastan said on Monday. The minister made the comments soon after taking office.

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar. ReutersBihar CM Nitish Kumar. Reuters

Nitish Kumar. Reuters

“We will start work to impose a ban on liquor in Bihar. It would be visible in the next six months,” he told the media here. In July, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had declared that prohibition would be imposed if he retained power in the assembly elections.

Mastan said the demand for prohibition in Bihar had been made by many. Women, mostly from Dalit and backward castes, had been at the forefront of protests against rising liquor consumption and demanded a ban on it.

IANS

Kerala government to launch Rs 78 crore liquor and drug anti-addiction campaign

This is reportedly the first time a state in India is spending so much money for a campaign against alcohol and drugs.

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The Kerala government is set to spend Rs 78 crore on a six month, state-wide campaign to promote awareness on the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse. According to a report in Malayala Manorama, the government has also allocated Rs 294 crore for the ‘Subodham’ project. This is reportedly the first time a state in India is spending such money to create a campaign against alcohol and drugs. The Kerala government is also planning to focus on students and teachers, says the report. Rs 3 crore will be spent on a campaign targeting them. Rs 27 crore is set to be spent on an awareness campaign about the dangers of alcohol. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A thorough plan has been formulated as to how the campaign will be conducted across the districts in the state. They have also planned road shows and camps, adds the report. In addition, a reality show on Doordarshan will be conducted, where former addicts will come forward to talk about the issues they have faced.The Kerala government has also taken into account social media. The report adds that they have planned to launch mobile games, videos and ads online in addition to ads in theatres and other places. A call centre will also be set up to disseminate information to people on this subject. De-addiction centres are also on the cards.

Telangana CM plans low priced liquor to curb spurious brews

The Telangana government plans to eliminate the menace of ‘Gudumba’ (a spurious intoxicating drink) in its new excise policy which is being prepared, Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao said here today.

The Telangana government plans to eliminate the menace of ‘Gudumba’ (a spurious intoxicating drink) in its new excise policy which is being prepared, Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao said here today.According to a release issued by his office, Rao, who held an excise policy review, said that cheap but safe liquor would be brewed under government supervision in order to save the lives of people and protect their health, though the government may lose revenue in the process.Since the price of liquor would be low, it would stop people from consuming spurious liquor, the release quoted Rao as saying.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It would also be possible to control the percentage of alcohol in liquor since it would be brewed under government supervision, he said.

Tamil Nadu: All party meet demands AIADMK government impose total prohibition

An all party meeting held in Chennai on Sunday wanted Tamil Nadu government to accept the demand of Sasi Perumal, who died while fighting for the cause of prohibition and to close all liquor shops across the State.

Alcohol

An all party meeting held in Chennai on Sunday wanted Tamil Nadu government to accept the demand of Sasi Perumal, who died while fighting for the cause of prohibition and to close all liquor shops across the State.Briefing reporters on the deliberations of the meeting, RR Mohan Kumar, urban district secretary of MDMK said that the meeting was convened to garner support for the State wide closure of shops on August four, seeking total prohibition.”The State government should accept the demand of Sasi Perumal who died at Marthandam in Kanyakumari on Friday and take immediate steps to close all Tasmac- the Government run liquor outlets, across the state,” the meeting said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He was protesting against the opening of new tasmac shops and demanding total prohibition in the state for decades, Mohan Kumar said. The meeting also demanded that Kanyakumari district administration and police should be held responsible for the death, he said.Representatives of MDMK, CPI, CPI (M), Aam Aadmi Party, Manitaneya Makkal Katchi, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and Social Demotratic Party of India participated in the meeting. The parties will directly approach the traders and seek their support for the strike.However, they will not not be forced to down their shutters, since the strike was for a common cause, A Sadiq Ali, MMK district secretary, said. Besides issuing pamphlets, posters will be pasted at strategic points to create awareness among the public, he said.

Mumbai hooch tragedy: Death toll climbs to 81, eight officials suspended

Mumbai: The death toll in the illicit liquor tragedy in a country liqour bar in suburban Mumbai shot up to 81 on Saturday morning with the death of more people due to the poisonous brew, officials in Mumbai said.

Several victims are undergoing treatment in various hospitals, and the condition of at least a dozen is said to be critical.

Mumbai Police inspect the location where the alcohol was made. PTIMumbai Police inspect the location where the alcohol was made. PTI

Mumbai Police inspect the location where the liquor was made. PTI

The toll was 20 on Friday noon, and suddenly shot up to 66 on Friday night with more people dying at short intervals and more being admitted with symptoms of poisoning during the day.

Police have cracked down on the law enforcers by suspending eight officials, including senior Police Inspector of Malwani police station Prakash S. Patil, three officers and four constables, Deputy Commissioner of Police Kulkarni said.

Three people, identified as Raju Hanumant alias Langada, Gautam Avde and Donald Robert, were arrested for the tragedy as they allegedly transported illicit pouches of liquor from the Vasai-Virar region in adjoining Thane.

They were presented before a Mumbai magistrate who sent them to police custody till 26 July.

Police are on lookout for three other accused, including a woman bootlegger, involved in supplying the poisonous concoction leading to the tragedy.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis ordered an inquiry into the incident and sought a report within two days, an official spokesperson said.

The victims, mostly living in Laxmi Nagar slums and employed as low-paying drivers, daily labourers etc., had consumed the cheap country liquor at a bar in Rathodi village here on Wednesday night.

Since Thursday they started developing symptoms of poisoning, including vomiting, abdominal pain and burning sensation in eyes and sudden collapse.

Their alarmed family members rushed them to local hospitals, but some of them died on way. Many of the victims hail from Gulbarga region of Karnataka.

Minister of State for Home Ranjit Patil said Mumbai Police Crime Branch has taken over the probe into the incident.

Teams have been formed to trace the origin of the spurious liquor, those involved in brewing, selling and transporting it and other aspects, officials said.

This is the first major illicit liquor tragedy in Mumbai since December 23, 2004, when hooch claimed 87 lives.

PTI with additional inputs

Mumbai hooch tragedy: Death toll rises to 41, 24 still critical

Mumbai: The death toll in the hooch tragedy has climbed to 41 while the condition of 24 victims continued to be critical even as three persons were arrested and eight cops suspended.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“Senior police inspector (attached to Malwani police station) along with seven other personnel, including three officers and four constables, have been suspended for connivance/negligence,” City police commissioner Rakesh Maria told PTI.

Police have arrested three persons in this connection and have booked them under sections 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 328 (causing hurt by means of poison, etc. with intent to commit an offence) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of IPC.

They have been identified as Raju Hanmanta Pascar (50), Donald Robert Patel (47) and Gautam Harte (30) and their role is investigated.

The incident occurred at Laxmi Nagar slum near Gamdevi Jurassic park in Malad on Wednesday night and the victims started showing symptoms soon after.

While 13 people died last night, the casualty figure rose to 41 today with 28 more deaths, said Mumbai Police spokesperson Dhananjay Kulkarni.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis last night ordered an inquiry into the incident and asked the authorities to file report within two days.

PTI

Imported liquor in Gurgaon set to become 3 times more costly as state govt imposes new tax

Alcohol is set to become a lot more expensive in Gurgaon as the state government will impose increased excise duty on imported liquor from 1 April, increasing the price of imported liquor by as much as three times the current rate.

Imported alcoholic beverage is set to become more expensive in Gurgaon. Reuters

Imported alcoholic beverage is set to become more expensive in Gurgaon. Reuters

The BJP government in Haryana, in its new excise policy, announced last week that a new levy called the ‘assessment fee’ will be imposed on imported alcoholic beverages, the Economic Times reported.

Under the new Excise Policy, minimum retail sale price of liquor was “marginally” increased and rationalised, an official spokesman had told PTI.

The retail prices of country liquor was increased by 20 percent while in case of IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor), the prices of scotch and premium whisky brands such as premium, regular and deluxe was increased by 7 to 18 percent.

In case of super deluxe brand, the price per bottle was increased by 35 percent.

The price of regular beer was increased by Rs 5 per bottle to Rs 55 while rate of strong beer was decreased by Rs 5 per bottle to Rs 65.

The official spokesman had also said the import duty on alcohol to be used for industrial purposes was reduced from Rs 6 per Proof Litre to Rs 3 per PL.

Moreover, the rate of VAT on liquor has been enhanced from 4 percent to 8 percent with surcharge, he had said.

Restaurant and pub owners said that this hike in price of alcohol in Haryana, especially Gurgaon would completely cripple the industry, which contributed as much as 7 to 9 percent of overall eating orders across the nation, according to ET.

“It is like saying don’t do business,” ET quoted CEO of The Beer Cafe Rahul Singh as saying. “They have increased the alcohol licence fee by 110% and because of this assessment fee, the consumer will now have to pay up to three times more for imported beers.”

(With inputs from PTI)