The Nitish Kumar government in Bihar on Sunday banned the sale of toddy in public places.
The State government ostensibly took the decision after reports that tipplers have turned to toddy shops following the enforcement of prohibition. “Suddenly, consumption of toddy has shot up and new toddy outlets have sprung up in several villages and towns. Hence the decision to ban toddy sales too in public places was taken,” said an excise department official.
Bihar Excise and Prohibition secretary K. K. Pathak held a video conference with all district magistrates and department officials, informing them of the decision. “Anyone found selling it in public places would be arrested and sent to jail,” he said.
However, Mr. Pathak said, those tapping toddy for self-consumption are exempted from punishment.
Bihar ranks fourth in the sale of toddy after Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Assam.. “In Andhra Pradesh, the average monthly expenditure on toddy is Rs. 12.10, in Kerala it is Rs. 7.50, whereas in Bihar it is Rs. 3.54,” an excise official said.
RJD chief and coalition partner, Lalu Prasad, had made toddy tax-free when he was the chief minister.
Former chief minister and leader of Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular), Jitan Ram Manjhi has protested the government’s move, saying the drink has “medicinal value” and that he himself once “took it for 15 days”.
“I criticise the State government for this [the ban] and hope that it will have a re-think over the decision as only the poor from a particular community [SC/ST] are involved in toddy business,” said Mr. Manjhi, recalling Mr Prasad’s decision.Border outlets
Meanwhile, following prohibition and the State government’s crackdown on hooch outlets, it has been reported that liquor addicts, particularly from border areas, are moving to neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and Nepal.