Patna: Hours after reports of illicit liquor consumption again claimed the lives of at least seven people in Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s home district of Nalanda in dry Bihar, his ruling ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) described his total liquor prohibition policy as “ridiculous” and called for a rethink.
In further embarrassment for the Chief Minister, BJP also questioned how the liquor mafia was freely doing business everywhere despite the much hyped police operation to ensure prohibition since the past two months.
“Only the marginalised, poor and backward sections have been targeted and harassed in the name of liquor prohibition as the mafia has been roaming freely and doing lucrative business. There is a need to review liquor prohibition immediately,” BJP spokesperson Prem Ranjan Patel said here on Saturday.
Patel said his party had been repeatedly demanding a review of the liquor prohibition policy, which was “not being implemented on the ground.”
In the past 24 hours, at least half a dozen people have died in Nalanda after consuming illicit liquor. As per reports reaching here, seven people died at Choti Pahari and Pahartalli Mohalla under Sohsarai police station in Nalanda. All of them had allegedly consumed illicit liquor at the village on Friday night. Later, they complained of stomach pain and restlessness and fell unconscious before being taken to the hospital.
However, the district police are yet to confirm this incident. The police have said they would make a conclusive statement only after getting the post-mortem reports. But, the families of the victims have claimed that they died after consuming liquor.
This is the first such incident in 2022, but it has exposed the failure to of the authorities concerned to check and control the illicit liquor trade.
Last year, illicit liquor claimed 95 lives, including 45 in November alone.
Ironically, these cases are being reported from a state where manufacture, storage, transportation, sale and consumption of alcohol has been banned for over five years. Nitish Kumar had imposed total liquor prohibition in the state in April 2016.
Patel alleged liquor prohibition was only on paper and the reality was that the powerful liquor mafia was thriving. The government should identify people doing liquor trade and take stringent action against them, he said, adding that “liquor prohibition (in Bihar) has become ridiculous.”
BJP state president Sanjay Jaiswal on Friday had also alleged that despite prohibition the liquor mafia was running a flourishing business in each district. He also called out the police's collusion with the mafia that facilitated the illicit liquor trade.
Earlier, too, Jaiswal and other BJP leaders have publicly raised the issue of “failure of alcohol prohibition.”
Noticeably, 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, 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.
In recent months, reports of the liquor mafia attacking police teams have increased manifold and this is seen as a part of organised crime in the state.