PATNA: LJP chief and Union minister Ramvilas Paswan today said he will sit on a dharna here tomorrow demanding rollback of the decision to ban toddy under total prohibition as he lent support to the Pasi community which is up in arms against the move.
"I will sit on dharna at Gardanibagh at 2 PM tomorrow in support of the toddy on 'toddy' (juice made from palm tree) cultivators and traders as it is their sole source of livelihood for ages which the Nitish Kumar government has tried to muzzle by banning toddy under total prohibition in Bihar," Paswan told reporters.
Describing toddy as "juice" and not liqour, he questioned the Nitish Kumar government's wisdom in banning the traditional beverage, the cultivation and sale of which has sustained families of the Pasi community for generations.
He demanded that the state government withdraw the decision, otherwise many people might have to commit suicide in fear loss of their only source of livelihood.
Paswan, the Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister, defended consumption of toddy in raw form before sunshine, saying the juice was good for health, a view that even Mahatma Gandhi held.
He said RJD supremo Lalu Prasad as Chief Minister had kept toddy out of the Excise Act in 1991 allowing free trade of this traditional beverage.
The LJP supremo questioned Prasad for his silence over the incumbent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's decision to ban sale of toddy altogether at public places.
"Why is Lalu Prasad not speaking on the toddy issue when he had himself lifted all restrictions on its sale long ago as the then chief minister in 1991?" Paswan asked.
The state government has banned the sale of toddy at public places as part of prohibition in Bihar, but backed trade of 'Nira' (pure juice of palm tree) in organised manner.