“I don’t think ‘sharab’ (liquor) is an intoxicant,” Punjab Health Minister Surjit Kumar Jyani has said in bizzare remarks that drew a cocktail of punches from political friends and foes alike but the BJP politician stood as steady as rock.
“Main sharab nu nasha nahin samjhda. Tusi sharab nu nasha keh nahin sakde. (I don’t think ‘sharab’ (booze) is an intoxicant. You cannot call alcohol an intoxicant).
“The government gives licences for manufacturing liquor, we auction liquor vends. As long as it is done, sharab cannot be called ‘nasha’ (intoxicant)… You have liquor in army. Liquor is also served at parties,” the BJP minister told reporters during an interaction after inaugurating a de-addiction centre at Gidderbaha in Muktsar district yesterday.
Latching onto the remark, opposition parties including Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) attacked the Punjab government saying it “exposes” the SAD-BJP coalition’s “double speak” and “mentality” even as Shiromani Akali Dal distanced itself from the statement.
The Punjab unit of Congress said the government was “fooling” people by opening de-addiction centres in the state to check drug menace.
“This statement is not of a BJP MLA. It is the state policy of SAD-BJP regime. It exposes the double speak of current regime… The claim of opening de-addiction centres is farce,” senior Congress leader Sunil Jakhar said.
“Basically, they (SAD-BJP) are not against drugs. They are hand-in-glove with the liquor barons. Though they claim that drug sale has been stopped in the state, it is a complete lie. A large number of people die every year by consuming spurious liquor,” AAP’s Punjab convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur said.
Political friends like SAD MP Prem Singh Chandumajra too threw cold water on Jyani’s enthusiastic defence of alcohol. “Liquor is nasha (intoxicant)… there is no denying this fact. Consuming liquor is not considered a good thing in the society and moreover, it also impacts mentally,” he said.
However, Jyani decided to brazen it out.
In a spirited defence of his remarks, Jyani said,”I do not call ‘Sharab’ an intoxicant and I still maintain it. Alcohol cannot be called ‘nasha’ until all factories and liquor shops are closed,” said Jyani this evening.
“When liquor is being sold (legally) then how can you call it as ‘nasha’. First you ban selling liquor throughout the country and if there is any sale of liquor then we can call it as ‘nasha'” he said.
“Will we call our army, BSF as drug addict? Will we call people consuming liquor in parties as drug addict,” he asked.
However, he said consumption of smack and poppy husk can be called as ‘nasha’.