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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Looking for a peg

As Kerala attempts phased prohibition, a look at how the country holds its drink

By: Express News Service |
June 22, 2014 12:15:26 am
2.46litres is India’s average per capita  consumption of pure alcohol in 2010, according to WHO 2.46litres is India’s average per capita consumption of pure alcohol in 2010, according to WHO

The abstainers
Prohibition is in force in Gujarat, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland
The Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act 1996 banned the sale and consumption of liquor, but permits called ‘red cards’ are issued to ex-servicemen and others on ‘health grounds’. Tourists may also bring alcohol. Though government figures say about 60-odd people have died from consuming spurious alcohol since 1996, the numbers are likely to be higher.

Rs 600-800 is the price of a bottle of bootlegged whiskey.

DRINK TO THIS:  Country liquor and IMFL are freely available at Rangvamual and Phunchawng, west of Aizawl. So when people head there, they say, “RV ila”, literally “Let’s RV”, RV being the short form for Rangvamual.

Prohibition was imposed in 1991. Manipur has a tradition of ‘neshabandhis’, locals usually led by the famous ‘Meira Paibis’ or ‘Mothers of Manipur’ who went around cracking down on alcohol. A cabinet decision five years ago to reinstate liquor licenses hasn’t made any progress. The law is not imposed on some SCs and STs who are traditional liquor brewers. So locally brewed rice beer and wine is openly available at Sekmai, Andro and any Kabui village.

Rs 1,800 is the price of a bottle of bootlegged whiskey.

DRINK TO THIS: Everything from beer to whiskey to rum can be got from hidden vends. Myanmarese, Chinese and Thai beer are easily available.

The Nagaland Total Liquor Prohibition Act 1989 was passed in 1990. But traditional ‘Zu’ and ‘Rohi’ liquor can be prepared and consumed. Last July, then CM Neiphiu Rio admitted in the Assembly that prohibition was a failure. Liquor flows freely from neighbouring Assam.

Rs 600 lakh per year is what the excise department generated before prohibition. The department now gets around Rs 10 lakh per annum in fines.

DRINK TO THIS:  On May 26, Commissioner of Excise in Nagaland issued an order to destroy 4,488 cases of seized IMFL. A civil society group arrived to discover that only 2,394 were destroyed and the rest were missing.

Prohibition has been in force since 1960 and a 2011 amended version is called the Gujarat Prohibition Act. Foreigners and NRIs need permits to drink and can  get them at the airport. The permit lets them buy buy two units (750ml) every 10 days. A domicile can get permits only on health grounds. Alcohol can be legally consumed at SEZs, of which the state has 22. In 2009, 150 people died in Ahmedabad from drinking spurious liquor.

Rs 3000-4,000 crore is the estimated annual loss in excise duty. The bootlegging network is said to earn at least Rs 1,500 crore annually.

DRINK TO THIS:  Bootleggers, called ‘folder’, deliver IMFL at your doorstep.

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