Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today asserted that the liquor ban would remain in force and he would want all kinds of intoxicants to be banned in the state, though his government was planning to amend the excise law in view of complaints about misuse of its stringent provisions. Kumar said that the prohibition was part of a larger social reform which would include banning consumption of all forms of intoxicants including khaini, an unprocessed form of tobacco, which is immensely popular with a section of the masses here though care would be taken to protect the interests of those whose livelihood gets affected because of these drastic steps.
“If you ask me whether we wish to amend the prohibition law, my answer is yes. However, I cannot speak about the details which are being worked out by our legal experts. When we came up with our excise law on October 02, 2016, it was said that some of the provisions were too harsh. Thereafter we have been hearing complaints of its misuse,” he told reporters here. “It is because of our intention to bring in suitable amendments that we submitted an application before the Supreme Court as the matter is sub-judice. We have been told that we can bring amendments to minimize misuse of the law. That we will do. But prohibition must remain in force. People do not realize the impact it has had on the lives of the people, especially the poor,” Kumar said.
The CM was talking to reporters on sidelines of Lok Samvad – a public interaction programme in presence of Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi among others. Opposition leaders, most notably former Chief Minister and Hindustani Awam Morcha president Jitan Ram Manjhi, have been attacking Kumar over prohibition, alleging those being caught and punished for violating the law were primarily dalits from very poor backgrounds and the government was unable to catch the big fish. Replying to a query about his government requesting the Centre to get khaini included among FSSAI’s list of food products, so that it could be banned in the state, the Chief Minister said we want to make our society nasha-mukt (free from consumption of any types of intoxicants.
“We realize that a large number of people in the state depend upon cultivation of tobacco for their livelihood. We are undertaking a drive to divert them towards alternative crops. We would not allow them to suffer on account of a measure that aims at reforming the society,” he said. He said for example there were many communities which were involved in manufacture of toddy and country-made liquor.
We have introduced schemes to provide them with alternative sources of livelihood. Asked about BJP-ruled states baulking at enforcing a ban on liquor though he is an ally of the party, the JD(U) leader said “taking such a step is not easy”. Kumar recounted, “I was ridiculed and criticized when I first came up with the proposal. But I chose to go ahead without worrying about criticism. But many may not wish to get embroiled in controversy by taking a radical step. You need to feel very deeply and strongly about an issue to take such a step.