The prohibition laws which came into effect in Bihar in April 2016 have now caused a divide in the State Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a partner in the ruling coalition, after over a hundred people died from consuming spurious liquor — 90 of them this year alone. While one group of the State BJP leaders have demanded a serious review of the prohibition laws another group has supported it.
Cornered from all sides over the recurring hooch deaths, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has now called a high-level review of the prohibition policy on November 16. Mr Kumar also said prohibition in the State was not his private concern but a public matter and people themselves should make it effective, adding that there were always some who indulge in “misdeeds”.
In last four days, over 40 people have died while several others have lost their vision in Bihar’s Gopalganj, West Champaran, Samastipur, Muzaffarpur, Siwan and Rohtas districts after consuming spurious liquor. In 2021, as many as 90 people died after consuming hooch. And all the victims were from the poorer sections of society, a group whose development the Nitish Kumar-led NDA Government has claimed to be committed to, ever since it came to power in November 2005.
The State’s BJP chief Sanjay Jaiswal, who comes from West Champaran district where over 14 people died last week after consuming spurious liquor, said there was need for a serious review of the prohibition laws in the State. “There is need to review this law (prohibition) once more. I believe that this law has been enacted for about six years and the success and failures of it should be reconsidered,” Mr Jaiswal told presspersons.
The State BJP president further said, “Police, liquor mafias and local administration nexus in the State has helped the business of illegal liquor flourishing” and embarassed Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his Government. A group of State BJP leaders too supported Mr Jaiswal and said “the time has come that the Government should rethink over prohibition laws in the State”.
However, senior State BJP leader and Rajya Sabha member Sushil Kumar Modi, who is said to be close to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, came out in support of prohibition in the State.
“Since people have died by consuming spurious liquor, it does not mean that there will be an end to the prohibition law in Bihar as the BJP was in favour of prohibition in the State. The Nitish Kumar Government should take adequate steps to enforce prohibition more strictly in the State,” said Mr Modi .
After the recent hooch deaths, the local police in the affected districts arrested as many as 568 people under new stringent prohibition laws. Ever since prohibition laws came into effect in April 2016, over a hundred lakh litres of liquor — both Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) and country made — and nearly 60,000 vehicles have been sized. Over four lakh arrests were made but only few hundred persons have been convicted. About 600 police and excise officials were suspended and dismissed for their connivance with the liquor mafia.
“We’ll hold a review meeting on prohibition on November 16 after Chhath festival and ensure that those involved in illegal or illicit trade of liquor would not be spared at any cost,” Mr Kumar said after the recent hooch deaths.