Development without social reform is neither transformational nor enduring. In Bihar, we are committed to eradicate the evils of alcohol and its damaging impact on public morality and society. One could not remain a spectator when a large part of household’s income was being splurged on alcohol, which has an adverse impact on health, nutrition, domestic harmony, social peace and dignity of women. Therefore, the prohibition policy in Bihar is equipped with an appropriate law, strengthened enforcement mechanism and an all-encompassing social campaign.
Those who choose to be ignorant must be informed that since 2011, much before the present law came into force, the Bihar government has been marking November 26 as Prohibition Day and creating awareness about the ill- effects of alcohol. Women self-help groups like Jeevika were rewarded for their efforts to make villages alcohol-free in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Moreover, in the run-up to the date of the implementation of prohibition in Bihar, a comprehensive social campaign was organised to create awareness about the law and the ill-effects of alcohol. As part of the social campaign, a resolution was signed by more than 1.19 crore guardians of children studying in government schools, promising that they will not consume alcohol and motivate those who drink to stay away from it. A Gram Samvad programme was organised in more than 48,000 habitations with the participation of 4.7 lakh Jeevika groups and 20,000 village organisations. Moreover, slogans in support of prohibition were written at nine lakh public locations. With this huge participation, the social campaign became a mass movement.
In an unprecedented event, more than four crore citizens formed a human chain on January 21, relaying a strong message to the world about their unwavering support to the prohibition policy and their desire for an intoxication-free society. At present, 94 lakh women organised in 8.14 lakh self-help groups and 45,000 village organisations are involved in the social campaign on a day-to-day basis. More than 30,000 education volunteers and 9,900 vikas mitra are an integral part of this campaign that takes the message of prohibition to each and every household.
Therefore, advocating that a drinking ban must be backed by awareness campaigns shows lack of awareness about the sweat and toil of an effective ongoing public campaign. We are open to constructive suggestions based on an independent assessment of ground realities. The medical perspective approach has already been adopted with de-addiction centres running in all 38 districts in the state, equipped with doctors, nurses and counsellors. Habitual drinkers and addicts are provided free medical care, medicines and necessary counselling.
When the law on prohibition was tough, it was labelled draconian, undemocratic and futile, and so now when it has been rationalised and made proportionate, it cannot be called a U-turn. Recognising the positive outcomes of prohibition and talking about revenue loss in the same breath demonstrates the dichotomy of the argument. There is no U-turn and there will never be. In fact it is an affirmative step in the right direction. With regard to the revenue loss argument, let me assure everyone that the state’s revenue continues to grow and what the households were spending on liquor is now being spent on consumer goods, education, health and nutrition.
We have always emphasised that a combination of a fair implementation of law coupled with a people-inspired campaign is the way to go. We have relentlessly encouraged the self-help groups and public representatives to demonstrate social leadership and strengthen the hands of the state in the continued implementation of prohibition.
We are always ready to incorporate best ideas in making the prohibition successful but there is no place for ifs and buts.
Let me reassure everyone that while implementing prohibition in Bihar, there will be no half measures.
Courtesy: Hindustan Times