Bihar CM Nitish Kumar
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar addressing a gathering in Patna | ANI Photo
Text Size:

Desperate times call for desperate measures. In this unprecedented health and economic crisis that India faces, the relationship between the Centre and the states, especially in the context of fiscal federalism, is being keenly watched. With the nationwide lockdown and the subsequent evaporation of the GST funds, the states are in a fix. A substantial portion of the state finances originates from the GST mop-up.

By virtue of being prosperous, states like Maharashtra and Kerala may still have a cushion, but for a poor state such as Bihar, the crisis is a body blow.

At a time when other states are raising revenue from liquor sales, Bihar doesn’t even have that option. Why? In case you forgot: Bihar is a dry state.

As the lockdown squeezes the state economy, there is a pressing need for the Bihar government to overturn the archaic liquor ban and strengthen the state financially.


Also read: After Delhi’s ‘special corona fee’, many states hike liquor prices for much-needed revenue


Bihar has questions

Migrant labourers walking back to their homes will become the defining image of this pandemic. Migrant labourers do not exist in vacuum. More than 10 Lakh migrant labourers are set to return to Bihar in the wake of this crisis. Bihar, therefore, faces a peculiar challenge.

The pendulum approach of the Bihar government led by Nitish Kumar in handling the crisis must be openly discussed and questioned. Where have we gone wrong? What needs to be done? How does the Government of Bihar intend to engage the returning migrant labourers in meaningful employment? These are some of the concerns that need urgent attention.


Also read: Maharashtra govt collects Rs 11 crore revenue on day 1 of liquor sale


Going beyond symbolic socialism

Bihar has been a classic example of figurative socialism where the political class in their mindless pursuance of power led to the total decimation of the state. In spite of having critical tourism spots of three major world religions in Bodhgaya (Buddhism), Patna Sahib (Sikhism) and Pavapuri (Jainism) and the remains of the world’s oldest university (Nalanda), the policymakers have shown almost no creative imagination in leveraging them in the interest of the state.

Chirashree Das Gupta in a paper titled Can Bihar Industrialize makes an important observation: “Industry accounts for only 3.2 per cent of the state domestic product in contrast to the national average of 20.1 per cent, making Bihar one of the least industrialized states in the country.”

Trade and tourism plays an important role in advancing the economy of any region and creating jobs. The migrant labourers returning to Bihar is an evidence of the lack of attention of the political leadership over the decades in developing support infrastructure for trade and tourism. In a report published by the NITI Aayog on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Bihar was at the bottom with Kerala topping the list. It is an exhaustive index that takes into account parameters of hunger, sanitation, basic infrastructure among others.


Also read: Chhattisgarh launches portal for home delivery of liquor to avoid crowding during lockdown


Shambolic ban on alcohol

A rethinking on the liquor ban in the state can be a good start. The state government has been losing in upward of Rs 4,000 crore annually since the alcohol ban in the state since 2016. A state with massive levels of unemployment could have done so much to provide job opportunities to its young citizens with this money. A person leaves his/her home and family only in a dire situation, but in Bihar it is a common practice.

Former press secretary and an eminent thinker Ashok Malik in one of his articles post the alcohol ban wrote about the death of 20 people in Gopalganj district of Bihar on account of consumption of “substandard and illicitly procured alcohol. Without the prohibition law, the men who died would have had access to country-made liquor made in safe conditions or Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) from a regular store. They would have survived and their families would not have been left wondering if the prohibition law was worth it.”


Also read: Zomato wants to start home delivery of liquor in ‘areas relatively less affected by Covid’


Liquor ban a bane

The already burdened judiciary in the state has to deal with the additional 200,000 prohibition related matters. The crime rate has also grown manifold contrary to the popular narrative that the ban has contributed towards peace and stability.

Noted thinker and former English professor Shankar Dutt of Patna University also pointed out that “All bans, I feel are an admission of the failure of governance. With the reports of domestic violence emerging out of the lockdown, it does not seem that the ban has worked for social good. Plus, the state is losing immense amount of revenue which it can ill- afford in an unprecedented crisis such as this.”

Liquidity injection through partial lifting of the ban on alcohol and subsequent elevated taxation can help boost the state’s depressed finances. The revenue can help in creation of sustainable job opportunities for the migrant labourers who have come back. The Bihar government should learn from the neighboring Uttar Pradesh government that is consistently working to transform the crisis into an opportunity by managing law and order through effective interventions in the bureaucracy. The  UP government, soon after the crisis was anticipated, set up a corona care fund of Rs 1,000 crore.

ThePrint is now on Telegram. For the best reports & opinion on politics, governance and more, subscribe to ThePrint on Telegram.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

9 Comments Share Your Views

9 COMMENTS

  1. Bihar Government has converted white money in to Black money. Now also Liquor are available in Bihar but government is not getting the revenue. It also increases question mark on the attitude of Nitish Kumar that does he wants to increase Black Money in Bihar to appease the smugglers of Liquor. HC should form a team to check this black money. Because more or less all the black money willbe used in coming election also to get votes. Nitish is getting benefitted from both side -One side is that innocent people of Bihar is Happy for liquor ban and other side his men are earning huge money for upcoming election also.
    It was not expected from a CM like Nitish Kumar.

  2. He should lift ban on liquor , i dont think ban is solution of anything rather he should regulate its uses by increasing taxes , by cancelling licences of nearby shops , setting age restrictions, making ids legal while purchasing etc. Ban on single sector affects other sectors too ban on alcohol has also impacted hotel and restaurants , snacks , bottled water , soft drinks , cigarettes, and etc. So he should lift ban and take measures to regulate it wisely.

  3. What a ban on liqor every where it is available and everyone become a sellers of liqor onlybonebthingbwe lost is tax on liqor everyone paying more now ….

  4. Nitish Kumar is not only a shameless person but has also gone insane after he has implemented this stupid & idiotic liquor ban. In no way it has benefitted anybody. For all those who feel that this idiotic & stupid liquor ban is good, should first visit Goa.. Out there people regularly consume liquor & it has not destroyed any family out there. I am a resident of Mumbai & even here we have not seen families being destroyed due to liquor. Rather than going for a ban why is not the government looking at creating awareness amongst people as to how to handle liquor, how to drink responsibly etc. These practices have been in place in cities like Mumbai & have been highly successful.

    Nitish Kumar has completely gone insane after implementing this prohibition. Where ever he goes he only talks about one thing & that is prohibition, prohibition & only prohibition. He has absolutely no topic to discuss. It seems as if he has got some wierd obsession towards this idiotic & stupid prohibition. Here people of Bihar are suffering due to hunger, unemployment, lack of facilities & he is only running after the bottle…absolute height of insanity. I just simply fail to realise as to how & why is the BJP even having an alliance with him. It would be better not to be in power in a state & sit in the opposition rather than siding up with a mentally retarded case like Nitish Kumar..

  5. Many business have been affected due to liquor ban…Many low class worker had affected their lifes due to it..its being 4 year or liquor ban.and till now many people are facing problem of this ban..liquor ban is not the solution of this problem..and what the affect of liquor ban …today scenario is that we can get liquor at home delivery with high price…and this lead to rise in mafia in the state….their is huge rise in the liquor blackmarket….in which many of mafia get profit expect our government…so its time for us to thing what should we do to abolish liquor ban

  6. Absurd. Alcohol has destroyed many lives in Bihar. Bihar is better without alcohol. All.migrants r returning back to Bihar and govt should capitalize them to mark MSME revolution. Bihar land is so fertile that it can fertile alone feed entire nation. Just take good care of it.

    • Mr Ravi, why don’t you land up here in bihar and share your great inventions & ideas about feeding the whole nation. Public here doesn’t have food to eat themselves and you are talking about feeding the nation.
      I understand it’s quite an easy task to write or say thing which even we cannot imagine of doing ourselves.
      I have no hesitation in saying that bihar government has been a complete failure to handle this pandemic situation and have always taken steps for their own political benifits such as uniting & then seperating their parts with RJD, imposing ban on liquor sale, joining hands with BJP. Mr Nitish is such a shameless person.
      Everyone here in Bihar knows where & how to get alcohol and people are consuming too but at a far heavy price. The revenue which should have been used for well-being of public of Bihar, is benefitting our neighbouring states from where the liquor is imported and sold illegally.
      I am just a common man and these are solely my personal thoughts but I am very sure that public of Bihar will soon wake up and show Me Nitish Kumar his KARMA.
      Thanks for reading.

  7. Liquor Ban not only impacted financial condition of State but it also destroyed Bar and Dhaba business. In Bihar you can get Liquor at every place with home delivery service and that created a new underworld in Bihar which is thriving on illegal liquor sale only. Govt is earning Zero but it can be fairly guessed who is benefiting most from it.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here