On the last day of the five-day Winter Session of Bihar Legislature, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday said nobody could claim 100% prohibition as there were always some unscrupulous elements who resort to criminal acts and make money out of them. He asserted that hooch tragedies taking place in Bihar had nothing to do with prohibition.
In the recent hooch tragedy in Saran district, as many as 38 people died and several others lost their vision and fell critically ill.
Also Read | Hooch claimed 38 lives in Saran, higher death figures misleading: Bihar minister
“Nobody can claim 100% prohibition as there are always some scrupulous people making money at the cost of human lives and resort to criminal acts,” Mr. Kumar told media persons. He said “hooch tragedies taking place in Bihar have nothing to do with prohibition as it is a crime and will be dealt with accordingly”.
“However, we have been largely successful in prohibition. Family bliss has returned and people are happier now spending money on food and lifestyle,” the Chief Minister added. “Hooch tragedies taking place in States where prohibition is not enforced is a bigger crime,” he said.
However, Mr. Kumar admitted that hooch incidents like Saran did come as a “dampener but cannot change the collective resolve for social reforms in society”. Asked about the State government’s huge revenue loss of several thousand crores of rupees because of the prohibition policy, Mr. Kumar said, “The estimated loss initially was put around ₹5,000 crore which now might have gone up to ₹20,000 crore but nobody is looking at how the revenue on other sectors has increased.”
The Chief Minister also took on the BJP for opposing prohibition and said, “They [Opposition BJP] may have been protesting today but they were also with prohibition. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi had appreciated it when he had come to Patna.”
The BJP had protested inside and outside the Assembly over the failure of implementation of the government’s prohibition policy and has also been demanding compensation to the family members of those died in the hooch tragedy. The BJP members claimed that over 100 people had died in the Saran hooch tragedy and the government was hiding the fact.
However, Prohibition, Excise and Registration Minister Sunil Kumar said, “The death toll in the Saran hooch tragedy has been 38 and the toll figure projected by the Opposition and some media houses is misleading.”
On villagers’ claim that several bodies were cremated without post-mortem done under pressure by the local police, the Minister added, “There is nothing to hide in the age of digital era when social media is everywhere. If any specific case will come to light we’ll verify it and if found true the toll would definitely be updated.”
“So far, 25 arrests have been made in Saran hooch tragedy as two FIRs have been lodged against 13 named and several unidentified accused. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) of police is on the job to nab those responsible for the hooch tragedy,” added Mr. Sunil Kumar.