Bihar Hooch Tragedy and Alcohol Ban

  • The death toll in the latest hooch tragedy in “dry” Bihar has risen to 38. Alcohol is completely prohibited in Bihar.

Alcohol ban in India

  • Alcohol prohibition has a long history in India, and it is one of the Directive Principles of State Policy in the Constitution, as well as one of the key Gandhian principles.
  • “Alcohol makes a man forget himself, and while its effects last, he becomes utterly incapable of doing anything useful,” Gandhi wrote. Those who drink ruin themselves and their communities.”

How the Indian constitution views alcohol?

  • According to one of the DPSP, “the State shall endeavour to bring about the prohibition of the consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs which are harmful to health, except for medicinal purposes.”
  • While DPSPs are not legally enforceable in and of themselves, they do set goals for the state to strive for in order to create conditions in which citizens can live a good life.
  • According to the Seventh Schedule, alcohol is a state subject, which means that state legislatures have the authority and responsibility to enact legislation on the subject.
  • This includes “the production, manufacture, possession, transportation, purchase, and sale of intoxicating liquors.
  • As a result, alcohol laws vary from state to state, spanning the entire spectrum from prohibition to private sale.

Why do all states not have prohibition?

Ans. Huge Liquor Revenues

  • While the Constitution makes prohibition on alcohol a goal, most states find it difficult to declare a prohibition on alcohol.
  • This is primarily due to the fact that liquor revenues are difficult to ignore and have consistently contributed a significant portion of state government revenue.
  • In Maharashtra, for example, state liquor revenues totaled Rs 11,000 crore in April 2020 (during the nationwide Covid lockdown), compared to Rs 17,000 crore in March.
  • The state government attributed much of the drop to the closure of liquor stores, later classifying them as a necessary service due to the industry’s contribution to tax revenues.
  • The Maharashtra government collected Rs 11 crore in liquor sales revenue on the first day of reopening liquor stores.

States with complete ban

Every state has laws governing the consumption and sale of alcoholic beverages (like age requirements or dry days).

Currently, five states have total prohibition and several others have partial prohibition:

  • Bihar
  • Gujarat
  • Lakshadweep
  • Mizoram
  • Nagaland

Partial prohibitions in some states

  • Karnataka, for example, has a partial prohibition and specifically banned country-made arrack in 2007.
  • Wardha and Gadhricholi districts in Maharashtra have banned the production and sale of liquor.
  • Prohibition exists in the districts of Bishnupur, Imphal East, Imphal West, and Thoubal in Manipur.
  • Kerala’s then-CM Oomen Chandy announced in 2014 that prohibition would be phased in.
  • However, the state has since broken its promise.

Reason behind Bihar Alcohol Ban

  • One of the causes of the tragedy, according to critics, is the state’s prohibition policy.
  • An official prohibition on alcohol creates a thriving underground economy where such bogus alcohol is manufactured and sold.
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