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  India   All India  21 Jul 2018  Nitish Kumar softens blow of liquor ban provisions

Nitish Kumar softens blow of liquor ban provisions

THE ASIAN AGE. | NAYEAR AZAD
Published : Jul 21, 2018, 12:18 am IST
Updated : Jul 21, 2018, 12:18 am IST

Sources claim that former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi has been targeting the state government on the issue.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar (Photo: PTI)
 Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar (Photo: PTI)

Patna: Sensing a backlash in elections, the Nitish Kumar-led Bihar government has decided to tone down some of the stringent clauses of the existing liquor prohibition law. The biggest relief is for first-time offenders who will now be permitted bail instead.

Sources said Mr Kumar who has been facing criticism from various quarters, including the Opposition, took the decision after examining the socio-political ramifications of the prohibition law. The proposal to amend the law will be tabled  in the Assembly during the on-going Monsoon Session.

Sources told this newspaper that some of the harshest provisions will be deleted from the existing law. One such provision is the one on  slapping collective fines on all villagers on detection of a liquor manufacturing unit there.

“Section 38 is likely to be deleted. It has a provision to punishment people who don't inform officials about a person possessing liquor. This section also has provision to punish the entire family of a person who is found drinking or storing liquor at his residence,” a source told this newspaper.

Reports suggest that over 23 lakh litres of Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL) have so far been seized under the law.

Leaders of the ruling JD(U) call the changes in the prohibition law as “course correction”, the Opposition parties call it a desperate attempt to reduce electoral losses.

“With 2019 elections approaching Nitish Kumar is likely to take more U-turns. Liquor prohibition was one of the agenda’s in which the state government has completely failed. Innocent people have been sent to jail,” Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) spokesperson Danish Rizwan said.

The RJD too has been attacking the Nitish Kumar government over prohibition, calling his radical step a failure. Leader of the Opposition Tejashwi Yadav has repeatedly said that the party will annul the “draconian” provisions of the law if voted to power.

Prohibition, consumption and dealing or conniving to sell liquor was made a criminal offence under the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016, which provides for imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine of more than Rs 1 lakh.

Political analysts are of the opinion that the decision to bring changes within two years of the imposition of liquor prohibition has been taken keeping the 2019 general elections in mind.  

Sources claim that former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi has been targeting the state government on the issue. Opposition parties have also been blaming the Nitish Kumar government for several deaths due to spurious country-made liquor.

Reports suggest that over 1.15 lakh people have been arrested for violating the liquor prohibition act in Bihar. According to HAM spokesperson Mr Rizwan, “A majority of those who have been arrested belong to the dalit community while those who have the resources get away easily. Loopholes in the law is a reason for the emergence of liquor mafia. According to Mr Rizwan, 43 people have been convicted till January this year for violating the prohibition law out of which 25 were from the Scheduled Castes (SC) and 15 from Other Backward Castes (OBCs).

Tags: nitish kumar, jd(u), tejashwi yadav