New Delhi: Alcohol? Sorry, we stock only milk. Bihar is set to turn dry in phases from April next year, as chief minister Nitish Kumar had promised last month, but liquor shops would keep the nutrients - if not the spirits - flowing. They will turn into milk parlours.
Nitish himself came up with the milk-booth announcement while speaking to reporters here today on the sidelines of a national executive of his party, the Janata Dal (United).
The chief minister said he had asked the Bihar State Milk Co-operative Federation Ltd (Comfed) to examine the feasibility of the parlour plan as he repeated his commitment to ban sale of all kinds of liquor across the state.
"I have already asked Comfed to do feasibility examinations and offer milk parlours to tackle the issue of job loss due to the liquor ban," Nitish said.
He said the move would further strengthen the co-operative movement in the state and added that he expected the liquor shops to do good business once they turned into milk booths as they were strategically located.
In the first phase, Nitish said, shops across rural areas would be closed down from April. In municipal areas, Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL) would be sold by the state's beverages corporation and no private tenders would be given out. Eventually, these IMFL shops, too, would be closed down to pave the way for a complete ban across the state.
The decision to announce the prohibition - likely to cost the cash-starved state around Rs 4,000 crore in revenues every year - followed a promise Nitish had made in July in the middle of the Assembly poll campaign. At present, only Gujarat, Nagaland, Manipur and the Union Territory of Lakshadweep have total prohibition. In Kerala, bars are allowed only in five-star establishments.
The national executive - nearly a month and a half after the JDU's "grand alliance" with the RJD and the Congress had humbled the BJP-led NDA in the recent Bihar polls - congratulated Nitish and other top party leaders for the spectacular win.
The combine won 178 seats in a House of 243.
Party general secretary and spokesperson K.C. Tyagi said they had appealed for unity among anti-BJP outfits in five states that vote next year. "On the lines of the grand alliance in Bihar, we will try to unite anti-BJP forces across the country, particularly in the five states going to the polls next year," Tyagi said.
The national executive felt the grand alliance had attracted the country's attention and would impact national politics.