As heady profits dry up, milk now tastes bitter in Bihar

Rather than open milk parlours, as suggested by Nitish Kumar, former liquor dealers have turned restaurateurs

August 22, 2016 01:16 am | Updated December 04, 2021 10:46 pm IST - Patna:



Milk may build strong bones and teeth, but it doesn’t feed profits as fast as liquor does.

So > post-prohibition, a large number of liquor shops in Bihar have turned not to the white revolution, but to ice-cream, snacks and other hot favourites.

In April, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had declared that those running liquor shops could turn them into milk parlours under Bihar State Milk Co-operative Federation Ltd. (COMFED), which sells ‘Sudha’ brand products.

Four months later, though, there are few takers. The hangover of liquor profits is strong, and they are hoping for something “positive” to happen on prohibition any day now.

Across the State, there were about 6,000 outlets selling liquor, with Patna accounting for 70. Bhupesh Kishore Sharma, who ran Rim-Jhim Wine Shop at Kankarbagh Colony Mor for over 20 years, laments the loss. Now his shop is ‘Rim-Jhim Snax and Ice-cream Parlour’.

“The CM’s offer to open Sudha milk parlours was like asking someone earning over a lakh of rupees a month to now accept a salary of Rs. 2,000,” says Mr. Sharma.

At the busy R-Block, outside a prominent hotel, two popular watering holes have now turned into ice-cream, food and soft drink outlets. Dhananjay Kumar Singh, the proprietor of ‘Kishore cold drinks’ rues the change: business is not the same.

Meagre margins But why didn’t he take the milk parlour offer? “Have you seen any liquor shop transformed like that in Patna? What’s the margin? Just a rupee on each packet of milk,” he counters.

Sujit Kumar, who ran an old liquor shop at crowded Mitahpur bus stand, has turned it into “Atithi Restaurant and Guest house”.

The Managing Director of COMFED, Sudhir Kumar Singh, dismisses the criticism. He counts 16 liquor outlets that successfully switched to milk parlours in Patna and Vaishali districts.

“We welcome them and will provide all support and facilities,” he asserts.

He cites Sunil Kumar Rai’s enterprise on Arya Kumar Road in Patna as “doing very good milk business”. But a visit showed Mr. Rai has given the milk parlour on rent to someone else, and his tenant was not too happy. Unsurprisingly, many have moved up the value chain to ice-cream and more.

The lure of liquor profits remains strong, and many are pinning their hopes on the Patna High Court, where a judgment on prohibition is due.

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