Liquor ban has left Bihar dry without a high: Local deities face withdrawal symptoms - Firstpost
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Liquor ban has left Bihar dry without a high: Local deities face withdrawal symptoms


It's been two days since Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced a blanket ban on liquor in the state. On 5 April (Tuesday) Nitish Kumar government imposed a total ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol including India Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) with immediate effect.

The decision, announced by Nitish after a Cabinet meeting makes it clear that no alcohol can be legally consumed in all of Bihar, including bars and restaurants. The Bihar government had banned sale and consumption of country and spiced liquor in rural areas from 1 April this year, but had allowed sale of IMFL in towns and cities.

"But, the tremendous response of people, particularly women and children against liquor in Patna and other towns in a short period of four days, only convinced us that a conducive environment against alcohol has been created in the state and that's why we decided to go for a total ban on liquor after four days only," Kumar had told reporters.

But this decision of the state government has left the alcoholics of Bihar dry without a high. Just two days after the announcement, the after effects of the move are visible in the state. According to a report in The Times of India, doctors in private clinics have been dealing with a heavy inflow of people who are dealing with this sudden withdrawal. Hospitals and clinics have reported a sudden rise in admission of alcoholics who are facing withdrawal symptoms.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

An IBNLive report quoted a patient as saying, "As soon as I stopped consuming alcohol, my body started shivering. Then I was admitted to hospital." Another patient said, "I have been drinking alcohol for a long time now. When I stopped consuming alcohol, I fell ill."

According to reports, "At least 749 such people were brought to the state's 38 new de-addiction centres." The data was received by the State Health Society of Bihar. But that's not it. According to Rakhi Sharma, a counsellor at a private rehab centre Disha in Patna, which has been roped in by the government to assist in its de-addiction drive, "The de-addiction centre at Nalanda Medical College & Hospital in Patna has referred to us a teenage patient who had turned pretty violent. His family members told us the boy was a heavy drinker and had started chewing whatever he could lay his hands on, including chilli, since Tuesday."

But that's not it. According to Rakhi Sharma, a counsellor at a private rehab centre Disha in Patna, which has been roped in by the government to assist in its de-addiction drive, "The de-addiction centre at Nalanda Medical College & Hospital in Patna has referred to us a teenage patient who had turned pretty violent. His family members told us the boy was a heavy drinker and had started chewing whatever he could lay his hands on, including chilli, since Tuesday."

A petition was filed in the Patna High Court challenging the Bihar government's decision to clamp total ban on sale and consumption of alcohol in the state.The petition contended that the state government's decision violated human rights of a citizen about what to eat and drink.

Filed by an ex-serviceman AN Singh, the writ described the penal provision in the Amended Exise Act of Bihar, which was passed in the state Legislative Assembly on March 31 last, as "draconian, arbitrary and malafide" as it violated Article 14, 19, 21 and 22 of the Constitution.

The concern of the petitioner is not unfounded.

According to this report in The Hindustan Times, there are local deities in Bihar who are suffering because of the prohibition rule. The report said that there are many temples in the state where country-made liquor, toddy, and even IMFL was mandatorily offered to the gods. "With total prohibition in force, shrines of Dak Baba, Masan Baba, Goraiya Baba, Dihwal Baba, Naukha Baba, and Bhairav—all revered by the Dalit and Mahadalit communities among others—have gone virtually dry."

The Hindustan Times quoted a priest as saying, "Our God Kapal Bhairav accepts only liquor as his first bhog (food of gods). But after the ban about 40% of the devotees have chosen to stay away."

The Bihar government had banned sale and consumption of country and spiced liquor in rural areas from 1 April this year, but had allowed sale of IMFL in towns and cities.

The Army cantonment areas have been kept out of the ban order.

On 'toddy', the state cabinet decided to strictly impose the 1991 guidelines which prohibit sale of toddy within 50 metre of places like hospital, education institutions, religious places among others in towns and 100 metres radius in rural areas.

The 1991 guidelines also prohibit opening of toddy shops at bazar haat, entrance point of such haat and densely populated areas in villages among others.

First Published On : Apr 8, 2016 09:38 IST

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