After the ban on the sale of liquor in Bihar 2016, Madhya Pradesh chief minister mulled the same idea in the state to increase his vote bank.
Moving ahead with his plan, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan shut down 58 liquor shops located within a five kilometer radius from the banks of river Narmada during his ‘Narmada Sewa Yatra,’ and also promised a blanket ban on the sale of liquor in the state before the assembly elections.
On April 2017, CM Chouhan announced that alcohol prohibition will be implemented in the entire state by closing all liquor shops in a phased manner, and banning it within a radius of five kilometers of Narmada banks was just the first phase.
However, his plan was foiled when finance minister of the state, Jayant Malaiya, said in the state assembly during monsoon session that banning the sale of liquor would hurt the government’s coffers and will also hurt the sentiments of the tribal population of the state.
Also Read: Under BJP Rule in Gujarat, Prohibition Has Become a Farce
It is worth mentioning that, Madhya Pradesh has the largest tribal population in the country, with tribals constituting 21.1% per cent of the state population. As per the 2011 census, there are 46 different tribal communities in the state.
Referring to a statement made by the World Health Organization (WHO), he claimed ‘The WHO concluded that completed prohibition on the liquor would be irrational in the present context.’
With the assembly elections being months away, the government’s U-turn on the liquor prohibition plan may affect CM Chouhan’s vote bank. After CM’s announcement, several campaigns had also been launched to make Madhya Pradesh a dry state.
To prove his claim, Finance Minister further argued that post-independence, prohibition was imposed in 10 states – Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Bihar. However, Mizoram, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu lifted the ban.
Later, he quoted an American author, Sam Harris, to convince the house, “Evidence affirms the sound economic theory which predicts that prohibition of mutually beneficial exchange is doomed to failure.”
Replying to a question asked by Congress MLA Jitu Patwari about the statewide liquor-ban, Finance Minister Malaiya said, “Currently, no proposal for imposing prohibition in the state is under consideration.”
Later, while talking to the media, Congress MLA Jitu Patwari said, “The government has taken the U-turn on many issues and liquor prohibition is one of them. CM has turned the state into a state of drunkards. Most of the youth started drinking liquor due to its frequent availability, which is fatal for their health. They do not care about the youth.”
Denying liquor prohibition, Finance Minister said it is not practical to impose prohibition as Madhya Pradesh shares its boundaries with five other states – Uttar Pradesh, Chhattishgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. Barring Gujarat, alcohol isn’t prohibited in any of these states. Hence, enforcing prohibition would lead to the smuggling of liquor into the state.
Also Read: How the Bootlegging Industry is Flourishing in the Dry State of Bihar
Referring to the effects of prohibition, he further argued that the sale of liquor generates revenue worth Rs 8,500 crore per annum, which is used by the state government to fund public welfare schemes and liquor ban would harshly affect these schemes.
Moreover, to make up for the revenue loss due to prohibition, taxes would need to be imposed on other commodities, which would make them more expensive. Number of pending cases in courts would increase.