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Why Bihar CM Nitish Kumar is Finding It Difficult to Justify His Prohibition Policy

File photo of Bihar CM Nitish Kumar.

File photo of Bihar CM Nitish Kumar.

For Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, it was a big political decision to impose a 100 per cent liquor ban in the state. This helped him gain the support of women voters.

Those who have been questioning Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s prohibition policy, there is a bad news. The dry spell is here to stay in Bihar, at least till the time he is around. Prohibition is his personal pet project and he is not going to ease the rules regarding prohibition. The Bihar CM, who has been facing heat from the opposition parties, defended his landmark decision on prohibition by saying that there is no question of any let-up against the enemies of society, who want to destroy the social equilibrium.

Of late, Nitish Kumar has been facing flak from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-led opposition, which has dubbed prohibition an “utter failure,” even some members of the ruling BJP combine expressing their displeasure against the liquor ban. “Let there be no confusion among bootleggers that liquor ban is here is to stay and actions against them will be now be even more stringent,” was the stern warning from the Bihar Chief Minister, who reiterated his resolve, saying that prohibition is going to be a success story in Bihar, no matter what.

Prohibition was put in place in Bihar in April 2016, after a section of women appealed to the chief minister to declare a complete ban on the sale and purchase of liquor; since then, he has been singlehandedly spearheading the campaign to bring about a much-required “social change” in the society.

Facing pointed questions

However, these days in Bihar, everyone is miffed—why despite all the efforts, the purchase and sale of liquor is unabated. Why is there no fear of police in the liquor mafia despite Chief Minister Nitish Kumar claiming they are coming down hard on the liquor cartel? What can the government do to change the perception of deteriorating law and order situation?

All three points are interlinked and they must be addressed at the earliest to realize the chief minister’s dream. Nitish Kumar has assuaged a lot of misgivings on the liquor ban but, more importantly, he has made it amply clear that he will not buckle under pressure, he will fight back, come what may.

Every second day, there are reports of an encounter between police and criminals, and such incidents have become the biggest concern for law and order in the state. The confidence of criminals has grown to such an extent that they can attack the police team.

Nitish Kumar has advice for the police department—while dealing with these organized gangsters, don’t go there alone, go there in teams and finish them. But just a few days ago, Dinesh Ram, a sub-inspector, was shot dead in Sitamarhi district, an incident that provided ammunition to the opposition parties to target the chief minister.

This, however, is not the first such incident; in 2020, there were several planned attacks on the police team, illustrating how the liquor mafia has been working in a coordinated manner. In September 2020, when the police went to raid the consignment of liquor from the Shramjivi train, the police team was brutally beaten up by the liquor smugglers.

Taking a firm stand

For Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, it was a big political decision to impose a 100 per cent liquor ban in the state. This helped him gain the support of women voters. Simultaneously, he also wanted to convey the message that the money spent on liquor by the male members in the family could be used for the family’s welfare instead.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has been credited with bringing an end to the “jungle raj”. For a sense of law and order to prevail in the state, a ban on liquor was much-needed. After resolving issues of roads, electricity, and water to a large extent, Nitish Kumar has been talking about investments and setting up new industries, but this target can be achieved only when criminals are neutralized and respect for law prevails.

The liquor ban was enforced not just to maintain law and order; the chief minister also viewed it as social responsibility. But today, the network of liquor smugglers has become so strong that banned drinks are being bought and sold in every village. More dangerous is the sale of hooch, which has claimed several lives in the state over the last few years.

Quoting a WHO report, Nitish Kumar in 2018 had said that liquor consumption can aggravate 200 kinds of ailments, from cancer to heart diseases. At a recent police function this week, the chief minister once again stressed the harmful effects of liquor consumption. Let it be clear that those flouting rules, regardless of any affiliation, will be sent to prison, he warned.

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first published:February 28, 2021, 13:23 IST