Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday announced that the liquor ban prevalent in the state would continue to remain in force and that his government would amend the excise law taking the complaints of its misuse into consideration.
Further, the chief minister said that the liquor prohibition in the state was part of a larger social reform and would include prohibiting the consumption of all forms of intoxicants. The prohibition also aims to ban the consumption of Khaini, an unprocessed raw form of tobacco, widely popular among a section in Bihar.
Kumar, however, assured that necessary care would be taken to safeguard the interest of those whose livelihood would get affected because of the ban.
“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.
“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,” the chief minister said as reported by PTI.
In reply to a question about his government requesting the Central Government to include Khaini among the FSSAI’s list of food product, in order to ban it in the state, the CM said “we want to make our society Nasha-Mukt (free from consumption of any kind 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 added.
He gave example of communities which were involved in manufacture of toddy and country-made liquor. “We have introduced schemes to provide them with alternative sources of livelihood,” said Kumar.
Opposition leaders, including the former Chief Minister and Hindustani Awam Morcha President Jitan Ram Manjhi, have been critical of the Nitish Kumar administration over the ban, alleging that people punished for violating the law are primarily Dalits from a poor background and that the government fails to catch the big fish.
(With PTI inputs)