New Delhi: Traders in Bihar don’t seem to be giving up on their fight against liquor ban in the state, as nearly 60,000 distributors, previously authorised to sell liquor, have launched a “None of the Above” (NOTA) campaign in the poll-bound state.

Bihar is going to witness the first big elections after a total prohibition of liquor sale and consumption was imposed on 5 April 2016.

Starting from 11 April, the state will go to polls for 40 Lok Sabha seats in seven phases.

The main contenders in the state are the National Democratic Alliance (BJP, LJP and JDU) and Tejashwi Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).

Ugan Prasad, a local RJD leader and former office bearer of the Liquor Distributors’ Association (LDA), told The Sunday Guardian: “We have launched a None of the Above (NOTA) campaign to make our demands heard. The political parties in the state are reluctant to hear our demands.  We have been facing an existential crisis as we lost our business and are forced to migrate to cities or work as farmers.” “During the campaign, traders’ families will visit house to house and ask relatives of affected families not to vote for any party and instead press the NOTA button. We have decided not to support any political party as no political party, including the JDU, RJD, BJP, LJP and others, has taken up our cause,” Prasad said.

Bablu Yadav, another former office bearer of the LDA, told The Sunday Guardian: “The liquor ban has worsened Bihar’s economic situation and slowed down development work in the state, but the political parties don’t seem to be paying any heed to it and are trying to continue with populist politics in the state. Bihar is already facing an acute unemployment problem and the liquor ban has only added to the problems.”

“After the liquor ban, crime has not declined in the state. Bootleggers have profited by using the ban as an opportunity. The number of cases against poor citizens has gone up,” Yadav said.

During the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Bihar had close to 5,500 licensed liquor shops.  In order to fulfill its promise of prohibition of liquor made to women during the 2015 Assembly election campaigning, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar ordered a total ban in the state on 5 April 2016.

The step had gained popularity for Kumar, mainly among the poor and women in the state.

Despite the total ban on liquor sale and consumption, the excise department has made high value seizures of liquor in the state.

According to a senior excise official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the anti-liquor squad has made seizures of liquor worth Rs 50 lakh in the past two weeks.

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