In dry Bihar the government has now decided to set up factories to make glass bangles out of seized liquor bottles through its Rural Livelihoods Promotion Programme, which is locally known as JEEVIKA. In Bihar, liquor had been banned since April 5, 2016 and every month lakhs of illegal liquor bottles were seized which were crushed with JCB (earth movers and excavators) machines and other vehicles.
“Seized illegal liquor bottles during raids were earlier crushed and treated as garbage but now we’ll give these bottles to JEEVIKA workers who were trained in making glass bangles. The State Excise and Prohibition department has allocated ₹1 crore to set up a glass-making factory in Patna and send JEEVIKA women for training in bangle-making to other States”, said Bihar Excise Commissioner B. Kartikey Dhanji. Funded by the World Bank, JEEVIKA is a rural social and economic empowerment programme which comes under Bihar’s rural development department. “Later, if the plan succeeds, we’ll consider increasing the number of such glass bangle-making factories in the other parts of the State as well”, Mr. Dhanji added.
Ever since liquor was banned in Bihar in April 2016, lakhs of illegal liquor bottles were being seized in different parts of the State, either by the district police officials or the excise department personnel. In August this year 3.7 lakh litres of liquor were seized in over one lakh raids against those involved in illegal trade and manufacturing of liquor. Of late, the police and the excise department officials have been using drones, ALTFs (Anti-Liquor Task Force of police personnel) and choppers to locate illicit liquor manufacturers and traders. Several illegal breweries on the banks of rivers in several districts were located through drones and demolished by the police and the excise personnel.
“Violation of State Prohibition and Excise Act’ 2016”
More than thirty thousand accused persons were arrested during these raids in one month for the violation of the new State Prohibition and Excise Act’ 2016. Earlier, several policemen and excise department officials in the State too, were arrested for being involved in proliferating and hugely profiteering the business of illegal liquor trade and sale. With these huge number of arrests, the jails in Bihar became overcrowded and the cases were clogged in courts. The Nitish Kumar-led government, later, amended the liquor law under Article 37 of the Act saying that the first-time offenders would be released in the presence of the duty magistrates after paying a fine of anywhere between ₹2,000 and ₹5,000 at the police station. However, there was also a provision for a one-month jail term in case the first time offenders were unable to pay the fine.
Hundreds of people, mostly poor and from extremely backward castes, died after consuming illegal spurious liquor in the State since April 2016. “Piyega to marega (those who will drink, will die)”, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had been reiterating after such incident of deaths due to spurious liquor occurred. It was due to the lack of storage that the police and the excise department personnel had been crushing such a huge number of seized illegal liquor bottles either by the JCB machines or, by some heavy vehicles in an open field.
“Economic viability of government’s new innovative”
Meanwhile, some businessmen sounded apprehensive about the economic viability of the government’s new “innovative” idea of making glass bangles out of seized liquor bottles. “This may sound as an innovative idea but in making glass bangles other materials too are used like limestone and soda. There are several small and big established factories in places like Faizabad, Mumbai and Hyderabad which constitute about 80% of glass bangle-making products. Will the seized illegal liquor bottles be enough to sustain a glass bangle-making factory’s economic viability and will the government also provide soda and limestone to those involved in this bangle production business?”, asked Patna City’s businessman Alok Gupta. “It is basically an attempt to woo women voters by the present government”, Mr. Gupta added. “It will be like Nitish Kumar government’s recent plan to brand the morning toddy as Neera (palm nectar which ferments into sweetened toddy) into a business enterprise but, it miserably failed to catch up”, said another businessman Satish Kumar Sah.
Earlier in November 2011, the then Bihar Director General of Police, Mr. Abhayanand, who goes by just one name, introduced such an innovative idea to melt and made the seized weapons stored at police stations into farming or agricultural tools but, that idea too melted away after a few photo-op initiatives in Muzaffarpur district. “I’m afraid this idea of making glass bangles out of seized illegal liquor bottles too would not meet the same fate of what Mr. Abhayanand had proposed in 2011 of making farm tools out of seized weapons”, veteran social activist Shiv Prakash Rai told The Hindu.
“Will the seized illegal liquor bottles be enough to sustain a glass bangle-making factory’s economic viability and will the government also provide soda and limestone to those involved in this bangle production business”Alok Gupta. Patna businessman