The predominant tourist state of Uttarakhand “cannot afford” to go for a total ban on liquor, noting that prohibition had “failed” in Bihar and Haryana. The statement made by the Uttarakhand CM, Trivendra Singh Rawat has again raised the eyebrows of many to investigate into the matter that whether ‘total prohibition of liquor’ or ‘a strict regulation’ of it is a better option. Liquor ban have been imposed in states of Bihar, Gujrat, Kerala, Nagaland and Manipur. Gujrat awards death penalty for manufacturing and selling homemade liquor. On August 24, 2014 Kerala government stopped renewal of liquor licenses and allowed only 14- five star hotels to serve alcohol. Bihar CM announced a state wide ban on sale and consumption of liquor on any kind with effect from April 1, 2016. The apex court on December 15, 2016 banned all liquor shops within 500 meters of national and state highways across the country.
But does prohibition really work in these states? Not really, Gujrat witness 29 cases of consumption of toxic liquor in 2013, while the neighboring wet state, Rajasthan has zero cases. A weak regulation has welcomed illicit trafficking. It is said that in Gujrat, booze gets delivered to doorstep faster than pizza, with the right contacts. Kerala faces an estimated loss of more than Rs. 7000 Crore annually through excise collection. Sharing a long border with Nepal is a big hurdle for Bihar to imply legislation efficiently. This is tempting for addicts to cross over to Nepal, drink to their full and come back. Bihar’s pain is Nepal’s gain. Meets and conferences held by Bihar government which include foreign delegates have a shift in their venues to capitals of neighboring states where there is no prohibition. Mizoram uplifted its 17 year old liquor ban in 2015. Rampant illegal sale of liquor forced the Nagaland CM to describe his own state ‘ the wettest dry state’. The states of Gujrat, Nagaland and Mizoram are examples of how prohibition gave rise to bootlegging which is also a prime concern for Bihar as it owes to growth of black market and crimes.
Suman Billa, joint secretary in tourism ministry on the apex court’s March 31 ruling on the liquor ban within 500 meters of national and state highways said “The court’s decision will adversely affect incoming tourist numbers in the coming months. There will be a negative impact – no two ways about it. We are not concerned about the liquor vends as such, we are only concerned about the hotels. Hotels are close to airports and manufacturing hubs and I don’t think people are going to the five-star hotels to drink and tipple on their way”. The ministry official said there needs to be a distinction between people driving on highways and travelers staying in five star hotels. “The hotels affected currently would see a drop in incoming of numbers. Business events may move to other countries.”
As of Uttarakhand, the debt ridden state ruled out the ban saying that “We don’t want to make liquor a source of earning revenue and will regulate its sale and consumption in a gradual way to discourage it and save the younger generation from its ill effects. But we are predominantly a tourist state earning around Rs.2000 Crore annually from tourist arrivals. We cannot afford to go for total prohibition”. So, it is opting for strict regulatory methods and has made rules to deal toughly with people creating nuisance after consuming alcohol. The liquor shops will also be opening only for six hours i.e. 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The results in Uttarakhand will set a new benchmark if implementation of law is done in an efficient manner creating an atmosphere of awareness and self-conscious among the people of the state and country. Creation of greater state capacity would require simpler but stronger laws, clearly defined swift procedures, getting enough trained hands and the necessary equipment, strong oversight to prevent corruption and a social culture that reveres ‘rule of law’. In such an environment a driver who might be carrying liquor bottle in his vehicle will think a hundred times before uncorking it.
By – Lakshay Anand
(Content Writer @ Legal Bites)