Alcohol emergency in ‘totalitarian’ Bihar

Alcohol emergency in ‘totalitarian’ Bihar

Drinking at home will result in the whole family being arrested.

Not informing the police about one’s neighbour storing or consuming liquor in his/her house will land one in jail in Bihar. Apart from this, all the adult members of a family will be arrested if one member is found to be drinking at home. All this is set to become law in Bihar from Tuesday under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s government. The “ban” is also applicable to toddy and bhang (edible cannabis). Ever since prohibition has been imposed in Bihar in April, an estimated 10,000 people have been arrested on the charge of violating the ban on alcohol.

Bihar Excise Minister Abdul Jalil Mastan told The Sunday Guardian over phone that the state government was going to bring an amendment in the Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act 2016, which would make the neighbours accountable if someone is found to be consuming or keeping alcohol at home. Bihar has banned the consumption and sale of alcohol from April this year. “We are going to bring this amendment on 2 August and all MLAs, cutting across party lines, are in support of this amendment,” said Mastan, a Congress MLA.

Mastan clarified that the neighbours would not face unnecessary harassment because of this new amendment. “If liquor has been banned in Bihar, then what is the logic behind anyone keeping or consuming alcohol? Society has been decaying because of alcohol and crimes are being committed under the influence of alcohol. If the law is not made stringent, how will you stop people from consuming alcohol? When people start fearing the law, they will stop drinking. Today people are smuggling alcohol into the state and selling it at a high price and unless and until we have a stringent law, under which people are sent to prison and denied bail for consuming alcohol, alcohol consumption will not stop,” he said.

According to him, this amendment is aimed at making people keep a tab on their neighbours and inform government officials in case they found their neighbours to be consuming alcohol. “If the neighbour is aware that a person is consuming alcohol and still does not inform the police, he will have to go to prison,” he said.

This amendment, which is likely to be passed easily as the ruling JDU-RJD-Congress combine has enough numbers in the state Assembly, will also have a clause stating that if liquor is found in someone’s house or if someone is found consuming liquor at home, all the adult members of the family along with the guilty will be arrested. “The family members will be responsible for informing the police about the presence of liquor bottles in their houses or else they will also be booked,” Mastan added.

Apart from carrying out search operations on trains entering and passing through Bihar, excise and police departments also check passengers who alight at the Patna airport. Thorough checking is being carried out at the highways connecting Bihar to other states. The Bihar police has also been carrying out search operations and are patrolling the Ganga to stop smugglers from bringing alcohol into the state by boat.

Residents of the state are often visiting neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Nepal just for a drop of alcohol.

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