The ban on liquor in Bihar, aggressively championed by Nitish Kumar, has been cancelled by the Patna High Court. The law had been described by critics as “draconian” for strict penalties against family members of anyone found making, drinking or selling alcohol.Mr Kumar, who was re-elected for a rare third consecutive term in November, had promised women voters in his campaign that he would turn Bihar into a dry state. But many warned that his over-strident policy would encourage the growth of underground manufacturing and sales of illegally brewed alcohol or moonshine, commonly mixed with poisonous chemicals to increase potency.Last month, 17 people were killed as a result of reportedly drinking bootleg liquor in Gopalganj in the eastern part of the state.
Bihar is India’s third most-populous state and the most recent, after Kerala, to opt for banning alcohol. More than 13,000 people have been arrested since April, when Mr Kumar did away with his original plan to ban liquor in phases, and declared complete prohibition.
The police department has seen rebellion with several officers refusing to accept promotions because they say the penalty for not imposing the law is stiff, and the requirements of implementing the law are near impossible to meet. In an opinion piece written exclusively for ndtv.com in August, Mr Kumar offered an elaborate defense of his policy, declaring it as “transformational” and vowing that unlike other states, Bihar’s prohibition law would be neither “symbolic or partial.”
“Let me assure all, in Bihar, there will be no half measures. I will stand my ground,” he wrote, claiming that by enforcing prohibition, he was meeting the needs and wishes of lakhs of women.