Bihar Goes Dry in Bold Nitish MoveThe Nitish Kumar government in Bihar has taken a bold step by adopting total prohibition in the state just four days after the production and sale of country made liquor was banned. It is a logical step forward for two reasons: one, the loss of revenue in country made liquor was over Rs 4000 cr while in banning IMFL or imported liquor it is just Rs 2000 cr so it makes sense to go for total ban as the poor would have accused it of pandering to the rich and two, some country liquor addicts would have converted to costlier IMFL entailing more hardships for the family, the very thing this ban seeks to prevent.
By Sunil Garodia
There are several concerns that the Bihar government must address. First and foremost, it must take immediate steps for effective policing so that bootlegging mafias, endangering the lives of people with their adulterated products, do not spring up. Then it needs to ensure that IMFL is not smuggled into the state from neighbouring Indian states and even Nepal, with which it shares a huge and porous border. Finally, it needs to generate additional streams of revenue to compensate for the loss in excise collected through liquor so that developmental projects are not stalled. After having foregone nearly Rs 6000 cr of annual revenue on this score, it will be hard pressed to fund its share of several projects and might even get into periodic fights with the NDA government at the Centre.
One is sure that if the government feels that the social benefits of banning liquor more than offsets the revenue loss, it has done so after a lot of brainstorming and soul searching. The next step should be a ban on tobacco products for they are equally, if not more, harmful for the health of the people. But since Biharis love their khaini and it is relatively cheap, one thinks Nitish will not have the courage to do so. In banning liquor, Nitish has fulfilled a promise he made before the elections and it will earn him unstinted goodwill of at least the women voters.