TODAY -

Draft liquor policy testifies no rollback stand
- The People's Chronicle Editorial :: October 06, 2022 -



EVEN if the government of Manipur is all set to reach out to organisations, which are steadfast that the prohibition on liquor must remain in place, to seek inputs and suggestions; framing of the Draft Manipur Liquor Regulation Policy has rung out the message that the cabinet's decision to legalise production and sale of alcoholic beverages in the state will be implemented whether or not the policy is acceptable to the anti-liquor agitators.

Few days after chief minister N Biren announced on the sidelines of an event that the state government will soon publish a white paper on liquor legalisation in the state, the liquor draft policy has been put in the public domain for perusal, thereby indicating that the government has completed the process to proceed with permitting sale and consumption of liquor.

The BJP-led government decided to 'partially' lift the three-decade-old prohibition in the state with the expectation that the policy will help in generating a revenue of Rs 600 crore annually.

Notably, there have been claims by government representatives including the chief minister and a handful of his cabinet colleagues that the cabinet decision was in-principle based on the concept of preventing proliferation and consumption of sub-standard liquor, reducing diseases associated with liquor and regulating production of the local brews.

Countering the government's narrative, women's organisations and Coalition Against Drugs and Alcohol (CADA) have been insisting that the primary objective of lifting the prohibition law is to enhance revenue collection besides ridiculing the government's reasoning that availability of quality liquor will help improve health of the consumers.

For the record, besides various other social evils, the womenfolk in the state have been fighting against alcoholism since the 1970s, forcing the then Manipur People's Party-led government to pass the Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act in 1991.

Consequently, Manipur officially became a dry state with exemption to people belonging to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities to brew liquor for traditional purposes only.

However, despite the prohibition, liquor consumption could not be successfully controlled as both local liquor and imported ones were widely available, thereby leading to agitations against liquor related menaces and consequently giving a reason for the incumbent government to lift the prohibition.

It's an undeniable fact that black market for liquor continues to flourish despite efforts to ban liquor production, sale and consumption.

Amid expression of varied views on legalisation of liquor, various groups in the state spearheaded by the womenfolk have been staging sit-in protests at different locations in the valley districts.

Compared to the women activists, who are in no mood of endorsing the cabinet's decision and have out-rightly rejected proposal by the government to hold talks for ironing out the differences, CADA, interestingly, had recently laid down a precondition that it might come to the negotiating table in case a white paper on the liquor policy is made public.

As such, framing of the liquor guidelines assumes significance for it demonstrates that the government is neither averse to the idea of holding discussions with any concerned stakeholders nor will it retract from its decision.



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