RAIPUR: Anti-liquor protests in Chhattisgarh have now spread beyond the capital Raipur with people, activists and the opposition holding demonstrations in 19 of the 27 districts during the past two weeks. The Raman Singh government has decided to sell liquor through its retail outlets after March 31, which saw people campaigning against the move, aiming to set-up liquor shops in residential areas.
Thousands of demonstrators have united to organise a series of protests that gathered momentum in different districts in Chattisgarh and saw extensive participation by women, who outnumbered men, in over 250 demonstrations. Chattisgarh police have booked 800 people who were in the forefront of the anti-liquor campaign.
The women particularly are up in arms opposing the government’s move to shift liquor shops from highways to residential and populated areas from April 1. This comes after the Supreme Court order on December 15 prohibiting liquor shops within 500 metres of the highways.
The main opposition Congress, Ajit Jogi’s Janta Congress Chhattisgarh party and even some top leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have repeatedly “voiced” their concern and demanded that “prohibition” should be imposed in the State.
As per the new excise policy of the fiscal year 2017-18, the State government will not hold any auctions for liquor licenses, selling it through its own government-corporation administered retail outlets. The Chhattisgarh Excise (Amendment) Ordinance 2017 in this regard was tabled in the Assembly on March 2.
The government stated that the new policy will put a check on illegal sales and the black market for liquor sold by middlemen and brokers. A 11-member committee under the excise secretary has been constituted to study the prospects of liquor sale under the government’s supervision and about banning liquor in the state.
“The officials police are intimidating the protesters. The government is violating Article 47 of the Constitution which clearly puts obligation on the state to improve public heath and endeavour to prohibit intoxicating drinks or drugs that are injurious to health”, said Mamta Sharma, a petitioner who has challenged the State through PIL against selling of liquor through the government-owned stores.
The high court has issued a notice to the government, and the next hearing has been scheduled for March 21.