An assortment of Made in India Foreign Liquor (IMFL) seized by the Excise Department are seen at the Excise Branch Complex, Dimapur in this file photo taken April 7, 2022. Department officials have said the IMFL worth about Rs 2.72 crore was subsequently destroyed. Such disposal of seized alcohol is commonplace in “dry” Nagaland. (Morung file photo)
Dimapur | May 29
Civil society consultation has become more the norm than the exception for the Nagaland state government. The same formula was applied to the controversial Alcohol Prohibition Act, but no one knows how productive the consultations were.
Three months ago, on February 24, there was what was supposed to be a consultative meeting with “stakeholders” on Nagaland’s Total Alcohol Prohibition Act (NLTP). It was an invitation-only meeting with 16 influential tribal, religious and student organizations. Each organization was invited to send three representatives to the Kohima meeting.
Sobering up resistance?
During the meeting, which was held behind closed doors, the 16 organizations published their views/proposals in writing, the content of which was not disclosed. Only the Catholic Association of Nagaland (CAN) made its suggestions public, in the form of a press release on March 2.
What happened remained confidential, but sources present told the Morung Express on February 24 that a majority of organizations were in favor of revising the prohibition law. This supports Excise Advisor Zhaleo Rio’s comment to the media following the meeting that “most had expressed their views” to review the NLTP Act.
According to official excerpts from the meeting, Zhaleo’s statement leaned in favor of scrutiny. At the meeting, he was quoted as taking a position that alcohol should not necessarily be viewed through the lens of religion and left to personal choice. He said looking at alcohol from a religious perspective alone would not solve real-world problems related to health and the economy. Given the reality on the ground, “stakeholders” were invited to provide candid suggestions.
The tone of the suggestions, submitted in writing by stakeholders, indicated a weakening of past resistance, with 13 of the 16 organizations pointing to the failure of the NLTP Act as warranting an assessment.
“Failure, review, waiver, revocation, restructuring” were terms that came up constantly.
Consensus on failure, not on the way forward
The opinions displayed can further be grouped into 4 broad categories: the first for the abolition of the law and the development of a new regulatory regime, the second recommending either total repeal or strict application, the third to give to the government the freedom to act and the fourth opposed any attempt to repeal and rather to maintain the law.
Naga Hoho (NH), Angami Public Organization (APO), Angami Student Union (ASU), Zeliangrong Baudi (ZB), Naga Student Federation (NSF), Student Federation of Eastern Naga (ENSF) and the CAN, in essence, recommended a controlled alcohol diet instead of a total ban.
The suggestions published by NH, ZB and ASU were bound by a “do more harm than good” premise, with ZB stating that the situation warranted a “better alternative”. Accepting reality was what the NSF asserted, while stating that the Naga people must accept that the law was a failure “because it is no longer enforceable and has not achieved the desired effect”.
According to the ENSF, the ban has only encouraged smuggling and the law should be lifted, while provision should be made to revise it from time to time.
CAN called for reviewing the NLTP on the basis of “harm reduction”. The only organization to go public with its proposal, it said people will always find a way and that it should instead fall to supply, demand and harm reduction. She assured to continue to support the plan and the policies of the government and to sensitize its members to the responsible consumption.
The position taken by the Central Nagaland Tribal Council, the Central Nagaland Student Association and the Dimapur Naga Student Union was either for revocation or for strict implementation. The latter of the three pointed to the obvious failure of the law, while claiming that it has become redundant.
Chakhesang Public Organization, Eastern Nagaland People’s Organization (ENPO) and Naga Mothers Association (NMA) felt that the prerogative should be given to the government. The NMA maintained that it was unable to agree to lift, but felt that the flawed NLTP “can be revisited and revised”. “It is the prerogative of the state government to ensure that it is also in the interest of its citizens and the public,” he said. ENPO said it would support the government if the law were to be lifted.
The Eastern Nagaland Women Organization (ENWO), the Nagaland Baptist Church Council and the Nagaland Joint Christian Forum supported the law’s continuation. ENWO said lifting the law would have disastrous consequences.
(This concludes a three-part series on the NLTP Act)
Read part 1 of the series here:
Read part 2 of the series here: