Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has called a meeting with his ministerial colleagues to figure out how to tighten the state’s liquor ban policy. The move comes after over 40 people died due to drinking moonshine, an incident some experts say is a result of people forcing themselves to consume illegal liquor due to the ban.
Mr Kumar calling the meeting is, however, not to be seen as an indication that he would rethink the policy, but it is rather a meeting to discuss what steps can be taken to avoid such tragedies and what parts of the policy need to be improved for better enforcement, sources have said.
The Janata Dal (United) or JD(U) supremo banned liquor in Bihar in 2015 after becoming Chief Minister for a fifth time, following a spectacular election victory. The ban came into effect from April 2016.
Mr Kumar also took a swipe at rival Tejaswi Yadav, whose Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress had raised in the assembly this February whether liquor ban in the state is helping at all, especially when revenue losses are also factored in.
“I keep reading in newspapers that people are writing letters to me, but I’d like to remind them that you were also one of those who took vows to make it (liquor ban) successful. So if you have any information about breaches in implementation, then please share it with law enforcing agencies,” Mr Kumar said, without naming anyone.
Mr Kumar did not spare a leader of the JD(U)’s ally, BJP, for questioning the move to ban liquor. Bihar BJP chief Sanjay Jayaswal has been a longtime critic of the Chief Minister over the policy. The BJP leader had recently sought a rethink on the policy.
The Chief Minister, without naming anyone again, said, “Some of those in opposition in 2016 are now in the government with me. No one should forget they also were party to this decision (liquor ban).”
Over 40 people died in Muzzafarpur, Gopalganj and Bettiah last week after consuming illegal liquor in Bihar. Tejaswi Yadav had termed the liquor ban law a “complete failure”.