Demands for relaxing the stringent prohibition law in Bihar for those coming to the state from outside were on Friday dismissed outright by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. He also rubbished suggestions that an exception be made on medical grounds for certified alcoholics, asserting that people spoiled their health by drinking and not by being prevented from doing so.
The chief minister, who made the state dry in April 2016, made his views known at a gathering in this north Bihar district, which he visited as part of a statewide social reform campaign. Although the main thrust of Kumar was on the virtues of abstinence and the necessity for a prohibition law, he also touched upon the need to eradicate illegalised, but prevalent nonetheless, social evils like child marriage and dowry.
“Many people are angry with me because I have brought in prohibition. They say we should at least exempt those coming from other states. Do people come to Bihar to drink?" exclaimed Kumar who is the longest-serving chief minister of the state. Notably, there have been fresh demands for exempting “outsiders" like in Gujarat, another dry state, in the aftermath of a police overkill to enforce the ban on liquor.
Around Deepawali, the state was rattled by hooch tragedies in a number of districts that claimed more than 40 lives. Gopalganj alone had accounted for more than 10 deaths. The chief minister invoked Mahatma Gandhi to defend his strident stance on prohibition.
“Bapu had said he would have ensured that the country was left with not a single liquor shop were he to become a ‘tanashah’ (despot) for just an hour," said Kumar. He also claimed that contrary to predictions of naysayers, the tourism industry had looked up in the state after the liquor ban until COVID-19 brought things to a standstill.
He also gave a stern warning to prohibition flouters, pointing out that courts have given death penalty to the accused in some cases of deaths caused by consumption of illicit liquor and even colluding women have got lifers.
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