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Industry body urges Bihar government to end liquor prohibition

NEW DELHI: Industry body The Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC) on Sunday urged the Bihar government to end liquor prohibition in the state after a series of deaths linked to consumption of spurious liquor was reported earlier this month.

In all, over 95 people have died in separate incidents linked to the consumption of illicit liquor this year, according to a report in the New Indian Express. Close to 30 such incidents have taken place in November alone.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar called for a high-level meeting to discuss the state-wide liquor ban, according to a news report by ANI.

CIABC has written to various government heads urging the state to legalize sale of liquor and put an end to the prohibition—that has been in place since 2016. CIABC represents major Indian liquor companies.

In its letter to the leaders of the NDA constituents—Janata Dal (United), Bharatiya Janata Party, Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) and Viskassheel Insaan Party, the CIABC has pointed out that Bihar is paying a heavy price of the prohibition policy in the form of proliferation of unlawful and spurious liquor, hooch tragedies, the rise of crime syndicates and loss of legitimate government revenues.

Bihar’s growth and development has been affected as the state is losing out on revenue from the legitimate liquor trade, which is pegged at around ₹10,000 crore per annum, it said in its letter.

The CIABC has urged the state chief minister to end prohibition in a manner that the government is able to get revenues for the state’s development without diluting the desired outcome of the prohibition policy.

“The CIABC has asked Mr Kumar direct liquor factories to hire 50% of their workforce as women which will lead to economic self-reliance and empowerment. The CIABC has also proposed a special cess on the sale of liquor to fund alcohol de-addiction & rehabilitation centres. It has suggested penal compounding of existing liquor-related cases in order to cut down the massive backlog as well as to help the state earn additional revenues to the tune of ₹1,000 crores,” it added.

Moreover, the industry body has recommended a state-run wholesaling corporation for close monitoring and control of the liquor trade in the state.

“Prohibition has led to the creation of liquor mafia. It has also caused major damage to the state’s economy and potential investments, thus hitting job creation,” Vinod Giri, director-general, CIABC said in a statement.

Prohibition was a key political plank used by Nitish Kumar during the 2015 Assembly polls. State-wide prohibition was implemented in 2016.

Citing a recent National Family Health Survey 2019-20 report, CIABC said Bihar consumes more liquor than Maharashtra.

“Reports also suggests that 90% of illegal sale of liquor is among poor and backward people. Similarly, liquor-related cases have not only badly affected judicial administration but have also led to overflowing of jails as there are over 4.5 lakh liquor-related cases pending in the state,” Giri said.

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