Prohibition has been in place ever since statehood in 1960, first under Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949, and now under the Gujarat Prohibition Act, 2011, following several amendments. The latest version, which followed 150 deaths caused by hooch in Ahmedabad in 2009, includes the death penalty for those found guilty of making and selling spurious liquor. The law allows for temporary and long-term drinking permits to foreigners, NRIs and tourists, with outlets and purchase limits specified. A resident can get a permit only on health grounds. At special economic zones, the government allows consumption against three-year permits. Every city, however, has bootleggers and an illegal interstate business thrives, estimated at around Rs 1,500 crore annually.
Total prohibition for 18 years, relaxed by a new law in July. Rules allowing regulated sale and consumption of alcohol being framed, liquor shops and bars may take a few more months to open. Government figures show high seizures of alcohol and several arrests of bootleggers and drunkards between 1995 and the end of the first quarter this year. Opponents of prohibition say these show prohibition has been a failure and has done little to reduce the availability of alcohol.
Experimented with prohibition from 1994 to 1997. Following a movement by women who vandalised liquor shops and beat up people drinking in public, N T Rama Rao promised prohibition, won elections from that plank and kept the promise after becoming CM in January 1995. The experiment failed. Though consumption by the poor came down drastically, there were many leaks. It also led to corruption in police, administration and politics and liquor was available although in very limited quantities, says Lok Satta Party president Jayprakash Narayan. CM Chandrababu Naidu, who ousted NTR in 1995, got a bill passed that permitted IMFL but kept arrack banned. Two years and several costly welfare schemes later, prohibition was lifted.
Hours after taking over in 1996, chief minister Bansi Lal imposed prohibition. In the very first year, estimates say, revenues dropped Rs 1,200 crore, ruling party leaders started voicing protests, and women complained about their husbands deserting their homes for places where they could drink. More than a lakh cases were registered, thousands of vehicles impounded, lakhs of bottles recovered and destroyed, but illicit brewing and smuggling continued, and drugs made their way into the state. The government withdrew prohibition after 19 months.
The Nagaland Total Liquor Prohibition Act, 1989, followed a movement launched by Naga Mothers Association (NMA) and church bodies. It exempts prohibition for traditional liquor forms Zu and Rohi. The Army and paramilitary forces too are exempted under an amendment of 1995. From Rs 600 lakh in 1988-89, liquor-related revenue has fallen to about Rs 250 lakh a year. However, liquor is clandestinely available all over the state, with reports of seizure of liquor coming in regularly. In 2013, CM Neiphiu Rio (now a Lok Sabha MP) admitted in the assembly that prohibition has been a failure.
ENS team from various centres