Bihar’s quixotic battle against alcohol - Hindustan Times
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Bihar’s quixotic battle against alcohol

ByHT Editorial
Nov 27, 2023 10:00 PM IST

Better regulation, adequate de-addiction centres, health and safety checks, and more government attention on policing could curb ill-effects of prohibition

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s announcement that the government will conduct a door-to-door survey on the impact of prohibition in the state has the potential to inject some semblance of evidence-based policymaking into the regime of liquor ban in the state. It also holds the first clue that the administration may have a rethink of the policy that may be popular with a section of the population but has seriously harmful consequences.

Nitish Kumar’s stance on the liquor ban is moral — it helps build a more enlightened society, reduces crimes and violence against women, and dispels other vices — but ground realities don’t bear this out. (HT File) PREMIUM
Nitish Kumar’s stance on the liquor ban is moral — it helps build a more enlightened society, reduces crimes and violence against women, and dispels other vices — but ground realities don’t bear this out. (HT File)

Kumar’s stance on the liquor ban is moral — it helps build a more enlightened society, reduces crimes and violence against women, and dispels other vices — but ground realities don’t bear this out. That alcohol, or some adulterated version of it, is widely available in Bihar is no secret. Hundreds of people die in the state every year after drinking spurious liquor. This newspaper has reported on the widespread phenomenon of “home delivery” of liquor, and how pouches of alcohol are made available by gangs and criminals who have gained economic and social muscle power in the hinterland due to prohibition driving the business underground. It is clear that in addition to the obvious revenue loss caused by prohibition — across states, liquor accounts for a large chunk of the state government’s earnings – the gaps in the policy pose grave public health risks.

Prohibition was an election promise by Kumar after demands by some women’s groups campaigning against alcoholism. Seven years later, its benefits are unclear, but harms are apparent. Better regulation, adequate de-addiction centres, health and safety checks, and more government attention on policing could be a better way to go about achieving the same goals. The earlier Kumar recognises this, the better it is for Bihar.

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