Patna: After the opposition Mahagathbandhan, Bharatiya Janta Party(BJP) has also demanded strict action against the powerful liquor mafia in the state.
Sensing growing anger against the failure of the liquor ban in Bihar amid many deaths due to the consumption of illicit liquor, BJP state president Sanjay Jaiswal on Thursday questioned how the liquor mafia is ruling the roost from top to bottom in the flourishing illicit liquor trade in each district of the state. Jaiswal further said the total prohibition on alcohol would not be successful unless strict action is taken against the mafia. He also called out the police's collusion with the mafia that facilitated the illicit liquor trade.
Jaiswal's recent remarks are the second instance in a matter of five days that he has publicly talked about the failure of alcohol prohibition. His comments come ahead of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's review meeting on the liquor ban on November 16. Kumar has called the meeting after the Opposition leaders criticised him over reports of deaths in hooch incidents across the state.
In the last 48 hours, six people have died after allegedly consuming illicit liquor in Muzaffarpur district- the fourth district in a week where people have died in similar incidents. As many as 20 people have died in Gopalganj, 17 in West Champaran and six in Samastipur, with an overall toll of 45. West Champaran is also Jaiswal's parliamentary constituency.
These incidents have exposed the Nitish Kumar-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government's failure to check and control the illicit liquor trade. According to reports, illicit liquor has claimed 95 lives since January 2021. Despite Kumar declaring Bihar a dry state in 2016, country-made and foreign liquor continue to be readily available.
Remarks by BJP leaders comes days after the Opposition had repeatedly targeted Kumar over his helplessness to govern and take strict action against liquor smuggling by a close relative of Bihar minister Ram Surat Rai, who hails from BJP. The Opposition had raised the issue in the Assembly and staged a protest march to Raj Bhawan demanding action against the minister for his alleged involvement in smuggling illicit liquor in the state.
Early this week, five Left parties - Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), Revolutionary Socialist Party and All India Forward Bloc - in a joint press statement released on November 9, condemned the insensitive and irresponsible attitude of the state government towards recent deaths in hooch incidents.
"Illicit liquor trade is flourishing in the state with the protection of the state power and help of the police. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar must be aware of this ground reality. After how many deaths then, will he be awakened?" asked the left leaders.
Left parties leaders dared the state government to probe into the politician-administration-liquor mafia nexus. This nexus, they claim, is behind the production and sale of illicit and spurious liquor.
The statement added that a flourishing illicit and spurious liquor trade is not possible without the patronage and support of a powerful liquor nexus. As a result, illicit liquor has become a synonym for the death of the poor in Bihar. Instead of curbing the liquor mafia, the poor are being punished through the draconian Prohibition Act.
The leaders said that the government should stop using the prohibition law as a weapon to repress and oppress the poor and override proper medical treatment and de-addiction programs for persons who are addicted by opening description centres.
Though all eyes are on review meeting on liquor ban, second after a total prohibition was imposed over five and half years ago in the state, Kumar is likely to announce strict measures and direct police and concern officials to firmly deal with people involved in the illicit liquor trade.
Noticeably, in the past, Kumar has repeatedly reiterated stringent action against bootleggers and directed the state's top police officers to identify persons engaged in selling and consuming liquor.
Despite that, rather than slowing down, the illicit liquor trade has become one of the most lucrative businesses, along with illegal sand mining in the state. In both the businesses, the powerful mafia enjoys the support and help of local police, politicians and administrative officials by paying a share of profit.