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on june 29 newspapers carried a strange photograph. excise minister, mrs sudha srivastava, obviously a woman, besides being a gandhian and niece of lok nayak jai prakash narayan, was seen seated beside the department secretary, amir subhani, a fully bearded man, a devout muslim having association with tablighi jamaat, a religious movement of the community. they both were shown discussing in details with the mediapersons the new excise shop settlement policy to be implemented from today (july 1, 2007).


among other things the two ‘teetotalers’ explained the ‘positive’ aspects of the new policy. the first and foremost being that it will increase the excise revenue of the state from rs 300 crore to rs 700 crore annually. there will be a liquor shop for every 13,500 people and that their number may in no time get almost doubled––from 3,200 to 6,200. it is also being argued that the new policy would help eliminate illicit liquor trade and there would be no spurious wine left in the market.

though some political parties have been opposing the new policy we have some meek protests from old gandhians and muslim organizations like jamaat-e-islami, students islamic organization and emarat-e-shariah. former minister in karpoori thakur cabinet, mrs sushila sahay, another close associate of jp, threatened to return all the pension money to the state government in protest against the new policy. on june 30, that is just on the eve of the implementation of new policy students of patna-based al-hira public school formed a human chain under the banner ‘children against new liquor policy’. almost at the same time the activists of rashtriya mahila brigade, a woman organization, marched on the streets of patna to oppose the government’s move. a couple of days earlier children of another school of patna took to street for the same purpose.

the irony is that till date the protest have not generated the desired heat and the mainstream media too did not bother to give much coverage. other premier schools of the state chose to remain indifferent so did the more active women’s organizations––both left and right leaning. the more vocal section of the society appears to have accepted the fact that the state government needs more revenue and that this is the best way of generating it.

what is being argued with a tinge of regret is that bihar has much less wine shops in comparison to the states like chhatisgarh, therefore, the revenue earning on this count is much less.

in the land of jp and karpoori thakur––who imposed prohibition when he was the chief minister––and the state in which gandhiji launched his movement gandhism is being thrown to wind. there is no one in the role of gandhigiri around us.

the increase in state’s annual revenue by just less than rs 400 crore is no big deal. but the big question is something else. taxes or duties are collected for the welfare of the people and not for the government to become rich. the government spends the amount on the welfare of citizens––it builds roads, bridges, schools, hospitals etc. but taxes are not collected to destroy the very social fabric, break families and spoil the health of citizens. by giving too much emphasis on more and more revenue the government in a way wants to encourage the people to drink more. the welfare state now is not bothered about the social and physical health of the citizens.

how can the government justify its new policy when on june 26, just four days before it came into vogue the assistant sub-inspector of agam kuan police station, r n thakur, in inebriated state opened fire in a restaurant within a kilometre from the residence and office of the chief minister.

with no dearth of r n thakur in the police rank and file how can the government say that the new policy would put a check on the illicit liquor trade and control the crime. the government can not justify its latest move by stating that since there exists gangs of bootleggers it has decided to eliminate it by opening many times more liquour shops and earn more revenue. if there exists a illicit liquor mafia than what is the government machinery doing.

the mute acceptance of crass capitalism and wine lobby by gandhians, communists, the state government and the civil society reminds me of the famous poem of the renowned anti-nazi german playwright bertolt brecht. the only difference is that in place of nazis we need to put the expression the big business houses or multi-national corporations:

“they came first for the communists, and i didn’t speak up because i wasn’t a communist.
then they came for the jews, and i didn’t speak up beause i wasn’t a jew.
then they came for the trade unionists, and i didn’t speak up because i wasn’t a trade unionist.
then they came for the catholics, and i didn’t speak up because i was a protestant.

then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”


*(the author is a patna-based journalist).

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while i respect your opinion. i would like to ask some questions

1. has prohibition worked in any state including gujarat? the stories of smuggling and related crime is all over the place.

2. what has been the bad effects of liberalization in the area of for customers airlines, telecom, car manufacturing, cheese, milk, steel... or any other part of economy? haven't people got benefited by higher quality and lowering of cost?

3. isn't society matured enough to know the ills of 'bhang', cigarettes, liquor or prostitution....? for centuries people know how to handle all this and all this prohibition and laws came into effect with british regime. india knew how to handle it at family and society level.

4. what has been the link between crime and liquor selling in the world? there is no link between the two what so ever. take example countries where it is banned and where it is open - open societies have lesser crime graph.

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