TODAY -

Tag of a dry State for the last 30 years : Did prohibition help ?
- The Sangai Express Editorial :: September 21, 2022 -



It is obvious that it has outlived its utility and the reality calls for tough decisions and the BJP led Government has gone ahead and adopted a decision that aptly fits the bill of a ‘tough decision’.

For more than thirty years, that is from April 1, 1991 to September 20, 2022, Manipur has been a dry State.

It still is a dry State pending an announcement in the official gazette, but nevertheless a tough decision has been taken to do away with the Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act, 1991 and this is taken note of.

Ever since the BJP led Government has been dropping hints that prohibition might be lifted, there have been voices of opposition from the anti-liquor lobby, with the Coalition Against Drugs and Alcohol (CADA) leading the way in striking a tough pose against any move to lift prohibition.

Tough to say how many toe the prohibition line, but it stands that prohibition, with all its intent was there only on paper.

There is nothing much to suggest that alcohol consumption stopped during the three decades of prohibition.

Far from it, it only meant that alcohol, the country made variety, gradually made its appearance in the leiraks and leikais of Imphal.

The costliest single malt whisky could be also had at a steep price while Indian Made Foreign Liquor was available at many joints across Imphal.

In other words prohibition only meant that sale of alcohol went underground and this did not impact on alcohol consumption as those with the needed money and the influence and clout could lay their hands on the brand of liquor of their choice.

So it was that whisky, rum, gin, etc could be had at a price and so too was the favoured local brew from places such as Sekmai, Andro, Phayeng etc.

To the enterprising few prohibition provided the right opportunity to pack or precisely bottle the country liquor to build some sort of a brand and came the liquor with eye catching names neatly bottled.

The underground market also meant that enterprising individuals became synonymous with the liquor sold in the black and their names (given or real), became well known !

Thriving underground trade and this meant that the Government lost out on a gold mine for over thirty years and over and above this it meant that there was simply no mechanism to monitor and regulate the production and sale of country made liquor, which did have devastating impact, best illustrated by the death of some individuals after consuming illicit liquor some time in 2017.

Enough indications that prohibition did not work and downing a peg or two or three or four or five of one’s preferred choice of whisky or rum or asaba all came down to the understanding of one’s reach and connection at the right places.

That Manipur ranked fifth in the list of alcohol consuming States according to a finding of the National Family Health Survey-5, the findings of which grabbed prime spots in all the major newspapers this year, should tell its own story of how effective prohibition has been.

However it should not be forgotten that prohibition came at that point of time when drunkards loitered the roads of some of the more infamous places in Imphal, when alcoholism and drunkenness broke apart families, when young children were exposed to the drunken behaviour of elders of the family and in the neighbourhood etc.

All proofs that the people of Manipur just did not know how to hold their drinks and when a peg or two meant making the evenings more relaxing to many it meant downing some cheap liquor to indulge in rowdy behaviour.

However what was the reality more than 30 years back need not be so now and this is a fact that should be noted.

It also stands that the revenue that the State Government may earn from the sale of alcohol cannot be brushed aside that easily.

Remember the tourism industry in Goa or Sikkim or even Meghalaya may not have been the same if prohibition was enforced in these three States.

It also stands that the major bulk of the income in neighbouring Assam may come from tea, fuel and sale of alcohol while Manipur has none of the three points noted here.



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