Patna: In a big embarrassment to the Nitish Kumar-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government and its much-hyped prohibition policy, several empty bottles of costly foreign-made liquor were found on the Bihar Assembly premises on Tuesday.
Opposition leaders attacked Kumar for his failure in controlling the illegal liquor trade. Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav demanded that Kumar, who has often boasted of prohibition as one of his achievements, should resign, leading to a spat between the two leaders.
“What a liquor ban. Liquor bottles are being found on the Assembly premises and the government is busy claiming a total liquor ban. It is a serious incident that should be investigated and action should be taken,” the leader of the Opposition said referring to the discovery of the bottles less than 100 metres away from the CM’s chamber.
Questioning the liquor ban further, Yadav said that alcohol bottles are being found all across the state. As he formally informed Kumar about the discovery of the liquor bottles in the Assembly, the CM ordered an inquiry following the Speaker approving action in the matter.
Ironically, four days ago (November 26), Kumar, public servants (including Vidhan Sabha Secretariat employees) and the police had pledged to abstain from alcohol forever. After the oath, Kumar claimed that prohibition will be enforced “more effectively”. Only 24 hours ago, all NDA MLAs and MLCs, led by Kumar, had resolved to support the state government’s move to strictly enforce prohibition.
Earlier this month, the Opposition had questioned Kumar’s seriousness in acting against the powerful liquor cartel. Contrary to expectations that a concrete action plan will be announced for cracking down on the illegal liquor trade at a much-hyped review meeting on November 16, nothing came out of it.
After the Opposition again criticised the CM over reports of more than 45 hooch deaths in the state last week, he had convened a meeting to review the lapses in the enforcement of the liquor ban.
In mid-November, at least, six people died after allegedly consuming illicit liquor in Muzaffarpur district—the fourth district in a week where people have died similar deaths. As many as 20 people have died in Gopalganj, 17 in West Champaran and six in Samastipur. According to reports, illicit liquor consumption has claimed 95 lives in Bihar since January. For the first time, dozens of people died within a week after consuming illicit liquor since prohibition was imposed in 2016.
Ahead of the review meeting, Bharatiya Janata Party state president Sanjay Jaiswal alleged that the liquor cartel is ruling the roost in every district in collusion with the police, adding that prohibition would not be successful unless strict action is taken against the manufacturers and sellers.
During the seven-hour review meeting, Kumar reiterated that he would not tolerate negligence in enforcing prohibition and strict action would be taken against government employees involved in the liquor trade. He also directed the authorities to identify liquor smuggling routes and seal the border.
Noticeably, in the past, Kumar had repeatedly reiterated stringent action against bootleggers and directed top police officers to identify persons engaged in selling and consuming liquor.