Patna: Chief minister Nitish Kumar today made it clear that prohibition in the state would be total.
"Prohibition will be total in the state," Nitish told journalists in his office in the Assembly building. He said he had no confusion on what his government proposes to do. "I have told my officials to send me the proposal accordingly," he said.
Nitish had on November 25 announced prohibition in the state from April 2016 but there was no clarity on whether it would be total. Today, excise minister Abdul Jalil Mastaan confirmed Nitish's assertion. "Prohibition will not be imposed on just country-made liquor. It will be imposed on all sorts of liquor," he said.
The confusion arose because of the chief minister's stress on keeping the poor away from liquor. "But one cannot have partial prohibition. The chief minister favours full prohibition," said an official.
Nitish conceded that many had told him his decision was a political blunder and that it would be impossible for the state government to enforce it. "Every angle is being looked into. The modalities of checking any violation or leakage are being worked out," he said, insisting he had wanted to ban liquor ever since he was a "vagabond". He said he had made up his mind he would do it when he had the means.
Nitish is unperturbed by the Rs 4,000 crore loss in excise the state wold see once prohibition comes into being. "Think of the social loss alcohol causes and the social benefit it's prohibition will ensure. The poor will be able to spend money on food and education instead of liquor and improve their living standards," he said.
Stressing that he would make a foolproof policy, he said people's cooperation was needed to clamp prohibition.
Bihar had earned only Rs 300-400 crore in excise tax when Nitish first came to power in 2005. It was because of a series of decisions, like creating a Beverage Corporation, that collection saw a rise. In the last financial year, Bihar collected Rs 3,700 crore in excise. This financial year, collection is pegged at Rs 4,000 crore.
The RJD, when it was opposing Nitish, had accused him of "taking availability of liquor to the village level."
The BJP is supporting Nitish's move to enforce prohibition. "But we know it is not possible to implement it fully. Everywhere it is bootleggers and the police who make huge profits. This is true for Gujarat too. If the government fails to implement it, Nitish's image of good governance will take a hit," said a senior BJP leader.
The Telegraph, Kolkata