A team from Karnataka on Friday wound up a two-day visit to Bihar to study how the Nitish Kumar government implemented prohibition and understand its impact on the society.
The 31-member team of Karnataka State Temperance Board (KSTB), an obscure government department, led by its chairman H C Rudrappa, was also interested in learning how revenue earned through excise duty on liquor has been compensated in Bihar so far since the state banned alcohol in April 2016, according to officials.
Although liquor is not banned in Karnataka, KSTB is mandated to create awareness on ill-effects of alcohol consumption, and usually undertakes awareness programmes in schools and colleges as part of its campaigns.
The KSTB, which supports alcohol de-addiction programmes and runs rehabilitation centres in some districts, this year had its annual budget increased to Rs 2 crore —up from Rs 80 lakh — and is partly using the enhanced funds to travel to states where prohibition has been introduced to understand the implications.
In Bihar, the team visited a village under Khijrasaeai block of Gaya and interacted with villagers, including women, to know their reactions post-prohibition. A Gaya district administration official said the villagers, especially women, reported that their lives had “changed”, and that some family members who earlier spent most of their money on alcohol have now started to earn and bring a sense of cheer at home.
On Thursday, the team met Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, who is learnt to have told them that development has no meaning without social transformation, which prohibition is ushering in. According to a person with knowledge of the meeting, Nitish said that although he had initially planned to implement prohibition in phases, “overwhelming response” in rural areas made him declare total liquor ban from April 5, 2016. Bihar is now saving Rs 10,000 crore that was spent on buying liquor annually, he is learnt to have told the Karnataka team.
Liquor is the second highest revenue generator in Karnataka – the state earns 17 per cent of its annual revenues from excise duty on liquor — and the state government is not considering a liquor ban, senior officials said.
Bihar Excise and Prohibition Minister Bijendra Prasad Yadav told the delegation that people who spent money on liquor earlier are now buying other goods, which is bringing revenue to the state through taxes.
Excise and Prohibition Department’s Deputy Commissioner Om Prakash Mandal told The Indian Express: “Our department gave them a presentation on ways to implement prohibition, and the difficulties we faced. We told them we started implementing it despite obvious revenue losses it would bring. The Karnataka team sought to know how we compensated for annual revenue loss of Rs 5,000 crore that came from excise duty on liquor.”
Asked whether there is any comparative study on revenue before and after prohibition, Mandal said there has been no such study but there are “positive indicators”.
With its enhanced budget this year, KSTB has also announced awards for people to recognise their contribution in creating awareness on alcoholism and helping overcome addiction.
At the Samyama awards, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah had said, “Prohibition should be a national policy, and not enforced in a few states…. Prohibition boosts sale of illicit liquor, which sometimes leads to deaths. Awareness needs to be created about ill-effects of liquor,’’ he said.