Indian beer and wine have become popular abroad; in this situation, who can Nitish Kumar declare as a sinner?
Nitish Kumar recently vindicated his policy in the Bihar Legislative Assembly as Chief Minister and stated very bluntly that “Those who drink alcohol are not Indians and are big sinners. They do not follow the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi”. Incidentally, he made the remark while responding to the debate in the House on the proposed amendments to the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act 2016. The continuous debate over the benefits of its liquor control policy and loss of revenue or illegal sales has been happening not only in Bihar but across the country. Outside of Bihar, comprehensive prohibition laws are applicable only in the state of Gujarat. Yes, recently BJP leader and former chief minister Sadhvi Uma Bharti started a movement against the prohibition law by throwing rocks at a licensed liquor store. In both states, it is seen as a form of power politics. Nitish Kumar made big claims and changed according to the stakes of politics. A few years ago, he was dubbed a candidate for prime minister. Today, leaving the side of the BJP, the main leader of the new opposition front, the candidate for the post of vice-president is debated. So can he also set the target that if he gets a bigger role at the national level, he will be able to implement the ban on Bihar lines in the country?
He is a veteran leader and, before the Jaiprakash movement, he will remember at least a little the anti-narcotics resolutions of the Janata party of 1977-79 and their failures by Morarji Desai and Chaudhary Charan Singh. I remember because I was a correspondent for the weekly Hindustan (Hindustan Times Group), the main Hindi magazine in the country. I had to meet Morarji Bhai and Charan Singh, listen to their speeches and write two to four page reports and so on. on blackout policy issues in the magazine. In this sequence, an article published in December 1977 was entitled “Darubandi: The weather will remain dry”. At that time, Prime Minister Morarji Desai publicly expressed his desire that “the prohibition law will be implemented nationwide within the next four years.” After that, a senior Janata Party leader told me in a meeting with a bit of sarcasm that when only 12 members of his cabinet are alcohol lovers, how will they be able to stop the sari public? Morarji Bhai had previously implemented the ban as chief minister of Mumbai state. Later after partition, in 1977, the prohibition law was implemented in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. When Morarji Bhai came to the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the construction of Amritsar, he put a condition on the request to make Amritsar a dry port that the state government declares the dry city. The then Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal, made it clear that at present the sale of alcohol in Amritsar will be banned for two days. But later Morarji’s resolve was never fulfilled and not only Amritsar but Punjab-Haryana became the leader in the production and sale of alcohol. Years later, when Bansilal became the Chief Minister of Haryana, the Prohibition Act was implemented, but after his removal, this Act was abolished as impractical.
Nitish Kumar repeatedly mentions the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi. Certainly, the prohibition of alcohol was an important ideal policy for them. But to what extent was he or the Congress party able to implement this policy? Before independence, the policy of prohibition was number one among the 11 proposals of the Gandhi Irwin pact. This policy was also kept prominently in sessions of Congress. In 1937, the Congressional governments of seven provinces also expressed only the resolution to implement Prohibition. After independence, the Constituent Assembly, providing for the prohibition of alcohol in Article 47 of Part 8 of the Constitution, wrote: “The State should consider it its primary duty to improve the nutritious diet and standard of living of its people and improve the health of life and above all it takes effort. That the use of alcoholic beverages and drugs harmful to health is prohibited. The drug should only be used when needed for a particular treatment. In Gandhi’s centenary year and in 1975, the Congress government of Indira Gandhi announced the prohibition policy plan, but it could not be implemented. A major reason for this depends on the policies of state governments due to the prohibition of alcohol being linked to health. At the same time, the main source of revenue for state governments is the tax on the sale of alcohol. This method is also given by the British. First, the British promoted alcohol in India. Then, in 1790, the East India Company started collecting liquor tax by implementing the excise system. This policy continued after independence. In the era of liberalization, after 1991, alcohol production, consumption and revenues of foreign alcohol companies and domestic companies increased. Leaders of various parties including Congress, BJP or their supporters started liquor factories and the profits kept rising. Today, Indian beer and wine have also become popular overseas. In this situation, who can Nitish Kumar declare as a sinner?
The author is Editorial Director of ITV Network-India News and Aaj Samaj.