PATNA: A mini exodus of sorts marked the New Year’s Day revelry in Bihar on Sunday as the state’s strict prohibition law forced thousands of people to visit neighbouring states such as Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and also Nepal.
Even as police and excise department officials maintained a strict vigil on celebrations with alcoholic drinks and secretive sales of liquor across the state, many large consignments of liquor were seized throughout the day and at least 30 people were arrested for possession and consumption of liquor, said sources.
Jharkhand, Bihar’s southern neighbour, witnessed the largest influx of visitors from Bihar in the past three days, according to transport and travel agencies. According to one estimate, at least 20,000 people from Bihar left for various places in Jharkhand famous as good picnic spots and those with an additional religious importance in the past three days. In contrast, places of interest in Bihar that usually saw sizeable crowds of New Year’s Day revellers from within the state in previous years wore an almost deserted look this time. The overriding reason for this change is said to be prohibition, which was enforced by the Nitish Kumar government in April 2016.
“Most picnic spots in Jharkhand such as Betla, Maithan Dam in Dhanbad, waterfalls such as Dasham Falls, Jonha Falls and Hudru Falls in Ranchi, Parasnath Hills in Giridih, Baba Baidyanath Dham temple in Deoghar and Hazaribagh lake are full of visitors from Bihar,” said Bishnu Kumar, an executive with Sri Ramdev Travels in Deoghar.
Thousands of people from Bihar’s western districts such as Gopalganj, Siwan, Buxar, Saran and Kaimur crossed the border to well-known picnic spots in Uttar Pradesh. Balia in UP has been seeing a steady influx of Bihari visitors for the past several months due to its proximity and free availability of all brands of liquor there. In fact, there is such a rise in liquor sales in Balia that the district, which used to struggle to achieve excise revenue targets earlier, crossed the current financial year’s annual target in November despite demonetisation. Against the target of Rs 10.61 crore fixed for the district for 2016-17, Balia achieved revenue collection of Rs 10.64 crore in November, said sources.
Police in Bihar’s Supaul district seized 781 bottles of Nepalese liquor while 289 cartons of foreign liquor were seized in Rohtas district on Sunday. In Patna and Gopalganj districts, 357 bottles of foreign liquor were seized. An illegal liquor manufacturing unit was also busted in Nawada district.