Alcoholic Beverage Industry body seeks lifting of prohibition in Bihar

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Patna, Dec 17 (PTI) An apex body of the Indian Alcoholic Beverage Industry on Thursday urged Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to gradually withdraw prohibition in the state claiming that it has increased smuggling and sale of illicit liquor, and also caused major financial losses to the state exchequer.

In its representation to the chief minister and leaders of NDA constituent parties, the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC) sought lifting of prohibition which it alleged has led to creation of 'liquor mafias'.

The measure has caused major damage to the states economy and potential investments, impacting creation of jobs, it said in a statement.

Kumar's government had imposed a total ban on sale and consumption of liquor in Bihar since April 1, 2016.

In its letter, which was also addressed to the deputy chief ministers, besides Jitan Ram Manjhi and Mukesh Sahani, leaders of NDA allies, the CIABC mentioned that an 'organised liquor cartel' has come up in the state which was selling liquor at 400 per cent premium.

'While people are forced to pay exorbitant prices for procuring liquor illegally, government revenues are severely hit by the illegal sale. Revenue from liquor sale used to be a major source of revenue for the state exchequer.

'The state government is missing out on an annual revenue of Rs 7,000-8,000 crore, while the state is moving towards debt crisis due to major loss of revenue,' said CIABC director general Vinod Giri.

The need of the hour is that Bihar government should review its prohibition policy, Giri said.

'The state government needs to gradually end prohibition and go for controlled and channelised opening of liquor trade in the state.

'We have suggested that liquor sale should be allowed only in urban areas to begin with, and the government should fix a minimum price so that cheap liquor which is more harmful is not sold in the market. The government should also strictly tackle drinking in public places as is being done in states like Delhi,' he added.

The CIABC, he said, has suggested that the government should impose a women welfare tax on liquor and additional money generated from it should be used for the purpose of empowering women.

'We have asked the government to make it mandatory for liquor producers to employ 50 per cent women in their workforce in factories for which the industry is ready to cooperate,' Giri said.

Noting that the CIABC respects the state governments decision to impose prohibition, the CIABC chief said, 'It is now evident that prohibition did not have the desired effect'.

The latest report of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) 2019-20 stated that more men in Bihar consumed liquor than in Maharashtra, proving that prohibition has not worked, Giri said.

Reports also suggest that 90 per cent of illegal sale of liquor is among poor and backward people.

Similarly, liquor related cases have led to numerous litigations affecting judicial administration and leading to overflowing of jails, the report said.

'There are over lakhs of liquor related cases pending in Bihar today', Giri said quoting from the NFHS report.

Explaining how the industry and economy have been hit in Bihar due to prohibition, Giri said, neighbourly states have gained from Bihars loss as liquor sale in the border districts of Jharkhand, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh have gone up.

Similarly, thousands of crores are being lost as hotel, entertainment, tourism and other allied businesses have been hit by prohibition, he said.

The CIABC chairman said, prohibition is not a good idea as it has failed in states such as Haryana, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, while in Gujarat also there is no complete plan but a permit system.

'First prohibition led to job losses as factories were shut and shops were closed, and now no new jobs are being created as there is no investment coming in the state,' he added. PTI SNS MM MM