(This article was originally published by The Economic Times on 07/05/2019.)
PATNA: In three years since Bihar Chief minister, Nitish Kumar clamped liquor prohibition in the state it has seen the emergence of a new distinct class of voters called “Nitish voters.”
A large chunk of these voters are women who feel that Kumar, through the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act in 2016, has saved their family members.
“Revenue from liquor is the prime source of revenue for any state government; Nitish Kumar has sacrificed such revenue for the interest of the society,” Ram Kripal Yadav, a resident of Arrah in Bihar, told ET, Yadav added that “In the villages, several youths have reformed now for there is no free flow of liquor. Even several aged people, who were known alcoholics, are leaving the habit for liquor is not avai lable anymore. One cannot afford to continue such a habit by purchasing liquor from the grey market.”
Last year, the government watered down some stringent measures of the act. The first offence, which was non-bailable, was replaced with a penalty. First time offenders will not have to be sent to prison. However, a fine of Rs 50,000 for first time offenders will be imposed.
This is the first after the ban and prohibition is an election issue.
“This has created a social awakening in Bihar. This is a bold step and fulfils the dream of the father of nation Mahatma Gandhi,” JDU spokesperson, Neeraj Kumar, told ET, “This move has helped the state i n improving human index, quality of life has improved and per capita income has improved. Those who are denouncing the ban are doing only for political reasons. Liquor ban is a social agenda,” he added. Kumar said that Nitish is known nationally for his brand of politics.
“Let those criticising the ban state in their manifesto that they will lift the ban once they come to power. Because of the ban several families are saved and there is peace in the families,” he said.
Opposition parties including RJD is campaigning that ban has led to surge in smuggling and made the police corrupt.
Manoj Jha, spokesperson of RJD argued that there is free flow of liquor in Bihar. “Liquor is readily available. In the name of liquor ban people from scheduled tribes, scheduled castes and other backward classes are being targeted.”
Since the ban came into force, 38 lakh litres of Indian made foreign liquor, besides 23 lakh litres of country made liquor has been seized and as many as 2 lakh were arrested.