Liquor politics : Bihar ahead, Rajasthan way behind

Bihar will become a dry state from April 1, 2016 after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced on Thursday a complete ban on the sale of alcohol, keeping a promise he made prior to the recent assembly polls.

But in Rajasthan, it seems promises are made to be broken, especially in respect of liquor ban in the state.

Even though former MLA and anti-liquor crusader Gurcharan Chabbra, who died on Nov 3 this year, demanding a ban on the liquor after sitting on a fast unto death since October 2, the state government has preferred to look the other way. Chabbra was also demanding a strong lokayukta.
Although several top state ministers visited Chabbra’s house after his death, there has been on action on purna sharaabandi that he died demanding. Chabbra,66, who sat on a 45-day fast last year too broke his fast only after the state government had given a written assurance that his demands for liquor ban would be implemented. Health minister Rajendra Rathore accepted that an agreement had been reached between the state government and Chhabra for control of liquor sale.
Chabbra was of the view that if Gujarat despite of being a dry state could become a model state, why couldn’t Rajasthan do the same.
Now his daughter-in-law, Pooja Chhabra, is sitting on a fast at Jaipur’s Shaheed Smarak, where her father-in-law also started his fast.
The demands are the same that of liquor ban and a strong lokayukta. One other demand added is a martyr status for Gurucharan Chabbra as the family claims he sacrificed his life for a single cause.

Pooja had started her agitation on November 23 outside the Chief Minister’s residence at Civil Lines.

Rajasthan government’s stand is that a complete ban on liquor is impractical and the ban would only give rise to liquor mafia.It gives the examples that the state had to roll back prohibition in 1981 as it led to the emergence of mafia. Haryana, Karnataka and even the US have had to roll back prohibition for the same reasons.
The other big factor preventing complete ban is revenue earnings to the tune of Rs 6000 crore by the way of liquor sale.

In 2014-15, the Rajasthan excise department has shown a revenue of Rs 5,585.76 crore. Over the last three financial years, the department registered an increase in revenue of 21.32 per cent, 24.92 per cent and 12.13 per cent (2014-15), respectively.
Bihar, on the other hand, would lose around Rs 4000 crore on the complete liquor ban.
But for Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, a promise is a promise. For Rajasthan political stalwarts, it is just not so.

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