Former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi on Saturday advised underdogs of the dry State to learn the art of enjoying their drink on the sly from their wealthy counterparts whose bacchanalia does not land them in jails.
Mr. Manjhi, whose Hindustani Awam Morcha is a junior partner in the State's ruling coalition, made the remarks during a candid conversation with journalists in course of which he frowned upon the prohibition law introduced by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for the umpteenth time.
“Anarth ho rahaa hai” (what is happening is outrageous), remarked Mr. Manjhi referring to the arrest of a drunken man, reported in a section of the media, who had got tipsy after a day's hard work and squatted on the roadside causing a racket, only to be hauled up by the men in uniform who subjected him to a breath analyser test before throwing him behind bars.
“These should emulate the bade sahibs (big shots) who quietly enjoy a few pegs in the night and go to sleep and, hence, never get caught”, said Mr. Manjhi, iterating that there was “nothing wrong” in enjoying a drink or two and cited newspaper articles to assert that doing so was therapeutic.
The sale and consumption of liquor has been completely banned in Bihar since April 2016, a move that followed Nitish Kumar's promise to the women of the state during the assembly polls held in the previous year.
Mr. Manjhi, whose son Santosh Suman is a Minister in the State Cabinet, said “the poor, the labourers, irrespective of the caste to which they belong, need to relax after a day of back-breaking hard work. They end up getting a bad name because of their obstreperousness. There would be no problem if they learned how to behave after having a few drinks and also how to exercise moderation”.
Prohibition has been a much-touted move of Nitish Kumar who has claimed that its effects on society have been “revolutionary” and by saving money splurged on liquor, people were improving their standards of living, which has more than made up for excise revenue losses.
Nonetheless, implementation of the stringent law has been patchy, as evident from hooch tragedies that keep getting reported from the State.
Politicians of the State, in their private conversations, acknowledge that the state finds itself in a tight spot because of the law, though barring a few mavericks like Mr. Manjhi, none takes the risk of questioning it in the open.
Mr. Kumar, meanwhile, has been asserting that the law will stay for as long as he is in power, and those who drink better brace themselves for public shaming if they lived in the State, and outsiders who found the law inconvenient should give up their plans to visit Bihar.