Prohibition: Dry Mizoram allows sale of wine made from local Grapes
An official statement said the Mizoram Cabinet on Tuesday had approved allowing the manufacture and sale of wine from fresh grapes harvested from local farmers under the provisions of the newly formed Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition) Draft Rules, 2022. In the meeting chaired by Chief Minister Zoramthanga, it was also decided that the prohibition law should otherwise continue to be implemented strictly.
The public outcry over the seizure of ‘Champwine’ from the State capital Aizawl — the wine made from grapes grown in the Champhai district — is said to have delayed the publication of the draft rules in the official gazette, according to a Report by The Hindu.
The Champhai Grape Growers’ Society demanded the return of all the seized wine bottles to the vendors besides insisting the wines should be allowed to be sold freely. The Opposition Congress and other parties also slammed the government after the seizure, saying the State Government was responsible for driving the woman to death due to anxiety over her loss. The 52-year-old woman died due to anxiety over her business loss after the seizure of grape wine from her shop in Aizawl.
Mizoram became a Union Territory in 1972. Pressured by the churches and community-based organisations, Mizoram adopted a policy of partial prohibition. The government allowed opening of wine shops in 1984 under the provisions of the Mizoram Excise Act of 1973 but these shops and bars were closed in 1987 when Mizoram became a State.
The Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act, 1995, was enforced from February 20, 1997, till January 15, 2015, when the Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control Act) 2014 was notified under the Congress Government. Fulfilling its pre-poll promise, the Mizo National Front government headed by Zoramthanga implemented the Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition) Act, 2019, leading to the shutting down of liquor shops and warehouses. The law prohibits the selling, manufacture, consumption and export of liquor and any liquid containing alcohol.
Since 2003-04, several hundred farmers in Mizoram have been growing various varieties of grapes, including Bangalore Blue, under the National Technology Mission for making wine. In 2007, the Mizoram government had relaxed the Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act, 1995, allowing the manufacturing of wine with up to 14 per cent alcohol content.
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The influential churches in Mizoram fear that wine with high alcohol content would serve as a substitute for hard drinks in the dry state. The recent crackdown on Mizoram-made wines has evoked serious reaction, with grape cultivators, wine manufacturers and netizens criticising the government’s action on social media and various other platforms.
Mizoram Excise and Narcotics Minister K. Beichhua had said earlier that the state government had enacted the Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition) Act, 2019 to save future generations from the menace of alcohol and drugs, and to establish a clean Mizo society.
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The State is the second state in India to enforce prohibition. The only other state is Gujarat, the home state of Mahatma Gandhi where it has been enforced since 1961 as a politically correct act. States like Andhra Pradesh and Haryana tried it but back-tracked later after they found it created more harm than good. Even Gujarat has frequent cases of deaths due to the illegal hooch being sold and alcohol can be easily procured outside the official purview.
‘The first lot of wine produced in two local wineries in the villages of Champhai and Hnahlan would be available for sale this month with the production process already on’ according to Horticulture Director Samuel Rosanglura. The grapes went into the fermentation tanks over a week ago. Nobody has talked about it but apparently it is going to be a fortified wine like the Goan or Nashik ‘Port’. As a state official reportedly put it, ‘Extra Neutral Alcohol (ENA) imported from Uttar Pradesh would be used to neutralize the sour taste of the grapes.’
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The wine branded as Zawlaidi, will have 14 per cent alcohol content- similar to the ones already being produced in Maharashtra and Karnataka and is expected to be priced at Rs.150 depending upon the taxes imposed by the state. It will be sold only in Mizoram for the moment.
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