'Jo piyega woh marega': Bihar CM after hooch tragedy toll rises

The Asian Age.  | Nayyar Azad

India, All India

CM Nitish stood his ground maintaining that prohibition was not his personal wish but a response to the cries of the women of the state

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar stood his ground maintaining that prohibition was not his personal wish but a response to the cries of the women of the state. (Photo: PTI)

PATNA: The Nitish Kumar-led Mahagathbandhan government continued to face the Opposition's protests on Thursday over the climbing death toll due to the consumption of spurious liquor in the Saran district. According to reports around 31 people have lost their lives and several others are still undergoing treatment.

Amid the protests, Mr Kumar said, "Joh piyega woh marega (people will die if they consume liquor)". He also hinted that his government is not willing to pay compensation to the families of those who have lost their lives after consuming poisonous liquor.

"People should know that the consumption of liquor is bad for everyone. They should be more vigilant," Mr Kumar said.

He also slammed the BJP for raising questions on his government and said, "They should answer why people are dying due to the consumption of poisonous liquor in states where they are in power."

Defending the liquor ban in Bihar, Mr Kumar claimed that people have benefited from the state’s prohibition policy and many of them have given up the habit of drinking alcohol. Mr Kumar has been facing flak from the Opposition after the hooch tragedy in Chapra was reported on Wednesday. He had lost his temper in
the Bihar Assembly when the BJP questioned him over his government’s failure to enforce liquor prohibition strictly.

As the death toll climbed on Thursday, the BJP held a demonstration near the main entrance of the Bihar Assembly. Some of the BJP members also demanded Mr Kumar’s resignation on moral grounds.

To make matters worse for the beleaguered CM, the grand alliance partner CPI(ML) protested outside the state Assembly, demanding that the prohibition policy be reviewed.

Poll strategist Prashant Kishor, who is currently leading a statewide padyatra and meeting people to promote his "Jan Suraaj" movement, also criticised the state government over the recent hooch deaths. He demanded an end to the state's prohibition policy.

Defending the Bihar government’s liquor prohibition policy, Mr Kumar said, "Prohibition was imposed after consulting everyone. We have been running massive awareness programmes across the state to inform people about its effect on their health. These things have also been happening in other parts of the country. Even when there was no prohibition, people died due to the consumption of spurious liquor."

While interacting with reporters, Mr Kumar said that the prohibition was imposed in 2016 after women raised the issue. He also cited the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and some of the recent research on liquor consumption to defend the prohibition policy.

Mr Kumar had earlier assured that action will be initiated against those who have been involved in the illegal liquor business and not the poor.

"I have asked officials to identify the real people who are creating trouble. We are ready to extend all kinds of help to the people who are needy and get involved in such acts due to poverty," Mr Kumar said.

Meanwhile, excise minister Sunil Kumar said that the state government will take strict action against those who are responsible for the deaths in Saran district.