Nitish admin on a high, turns prohibition into booze jihad
PATNA: As you get down at the Patna railway station, you expect to be stopped by policemen to check your baggage. But keep walking till you are out of the railway station and still there is none to stop you except the rush of devotees to the famous Mahavir Temple within the station compound.
But local Hindi newspapers are full of reports about how serious chief minister Nitish Kumar and his administration are about the liquor ban. In the Rajdhani Express, the topic of discussion among the passengers had been prohibition and the way it is being enforced.
“Nitish is an opportunist,” says Madan Choubey, a retired colonel in the Army. “He joined hands with Lalu, once his arch rival, only to be in power. Secondly, prohibition was introduced because Nitish aspires to become a national leader. He thinks by introducing prohibition, he can become one.'' Like several others in the carriage, the colonel believes the prohibition law is draconian.
“You cannot take action against an entire family if liquor is consumed by one individual. The administration is posting notices to people and they are penalising entire villages even if a few families are manufacturing desi liquor and selling it. Are we living in a democracy?”
And even Army personnel are not being spared. “I’m surprised he is not allowing even soldiers to consume liquor. Army men work in tough conditions. Liquor is allowed only in the Danapur (in Patna) cantonment. They are arresting Army personnel. This cannot be tolerated,” says the army man. Col. Choubey is a teetotaller.
Dry law has a sobering effect, say women and cops
Ever since the dry law came into force on April 1, about 35 Army jawans have been caught in an inebriated condition or while carrying liquor. Excise officials say there is no way Army personnel can be exempted. There have been reports that Army officials are going to ratchet up their indignation to New Delhi.
While the Army may be miffed, a vast number of other people, especially women, believe that prohibition has changed their lives for better. “Men do not come home drunk any more and everything is peaceful at home. Earlier, my husband would get drunk, come home and quarrel with me. Sometimes, he used to beat me up and our children used to be terrified. But all that has stopped now,” says Reema, a cook employed by a hotel in Patna.
But has crime come down due to prohibition? “Yes, it has, considerably,” says Patna senior superintendent of police, Manu Maharaj. “Crimes against women, murder, dacoities, riots and accidents have all come down. That can only be due to the non-availability of liquor.''
The top priority of the police now is to enforce the liquor ban. “Liquor has a direct impact on crime in any city or state. We see a major impact of prohibition in Patna and elsewhere,” says SSP Maharaj.
His guesstimate is that crime is down by nearly 30 per cent. Actual stats with the police are more modest.