TODAY -

From 1991 to 2022: Over 20 years :: Prohibition lifted, now what?
- The Sangai Express Editorial :: January 14, 2023 -



Tough stand. Tough decision it was for the State Cabinet under the BJP led Government to finally come to the conclusion that it would be better to lift prohibition.

More than ninety days since the Cabinet took the decision on September 20, 2022.

Official works, for whatever reason it may be, are known to take time to be actualised at the ground level and perhaps one may ascribe this reason for the failure of the Government to formally issue an official order doing away with prohibition.

As stated many times earlier in this column, particularly at that point of time when the Cabinet took the decision to partially roll back prohibition, Manipur actually never went dry during the more than 30 years that prohibition was in force here.

To anyone who enjoys a peg or two or three or even four, depending on one's 'capacity', those were the days when the Indian Made Foreign Liquor could be broadly classified under two heads, the 'asli walla', meaning those that were actually bottled by the company and the 'Khatkatti walla', the spurious ones, those that were bottled 'illegally' and then sold at a price here.

In short what prohibition did was to drive the sale of liquor underground and in no time there emerged some 'industrious' individuals who knew how to pull the strings and make a killing out from selling liquor in the black.

Imphal had and maybe still has some of the infamous joints where liquor could be bought and refusing to acknowledge this would amount to sheer hypocrisy and nothing else.

The country made liquor or ashaba as it is known in the local parlance made its way from the traditionally known places where liquor is brewed to almost all the localities of Imphal.

So Sekmai Yu, Andro Yu, Phayeng Yu and the other locally brewed liquor began to make their way to the leikais and leiraks of Imphal.

What once meant going either to Sekmai or Andro or Phayeng or any of the settlements in Imphal where the country made liquor is brewed, could be procured from the 'enterprising' leikai ines and leikai tamos.

So 'quick paiba' became some sort of an accepted vocabulary to denote a peg that one could have at a leikai joint just as dinner or lunch is being served.

This was and is the reality in Imphal and the same must be true at the other district headquarters and this has been the story of prohibition so far in Manipur.

A fact that none can deny and it was against this reality that the State Cabinet took the decision to partially roll back prohibition and in the process regulate the sale of alcohol while earning handsome revenues in the process.

The arguments or debates over prohibition no longer occupies prime space in the local newspapers and local television networks, though the Coalition Against Drugs and Alcohol and the ant-liquor lobby has been carrying out a series of protests across the valley districts of Manipur.

And it is against this backdrop that the State Government is yet to officially issue the order lifting prohibition.

As noted earlier here, official works are known to take long and remember apart from this the Government will need to work out the modalities of issuing the license to sell liquor.

The Government will also have to tackle the question of issuing license to hotels allowing them to open bars.

All official processes which may take time, but remember the longer it takes to actually implement the Cabinet decision, liquor will continue to flow in the black and grey market.

As noted earlier in this column, it was a tough decision and the BJP led Government seems to surely know how to capitalise on the massive mandate it received in the 2022 Assembly elections.

It however remains to be seen how that tough decision is translated into good governance at the ground reality.

The first and foremost task, in so far as the decision to lift prohibition is concerned, will centre around how it goes with the task of issuing the license to open liquor stores across the State.



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