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Government Abolishes Prohibition in Mizoram

Posted: Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 13:58

Government Abolishes Prohibition in Mizoram

Jan 22: Less than two months after tabling the motion, the government of the dry North Eastern State of India, Mizoram, has concluded that it is an expensive and illogical way to control drinking through prohibition and has repealed the law with effect from 16 January, 2015 after 17 years of prohibition, making it legal for people over 21 Years of age to drink and allow them to buy 6 bottles of liquor a month

This is in sharp contrast to Kerala which announced prohibition in the State in progressive steps within 10 years in August last year. Ironically, both states are being ruled by the Congress which is now an opposition party at the Center. Alcohol policies are a State matter, according to the Indian Constitution.

The then Excise and Narcotic minister R Lalzirliana (MLPC) had tabled the Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control) Rules (MLPC) 2014 in the Assembly barely 2 months ago on 20 November paving the way for lifting the 17-year-old prohibition orders. According to the rules drafted in line with the Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control) Act, 2014, people over the age of 21 years could have a permit to purchase and drink alcohol- not more than six bottles (750 ml) in a month, according to a report in Business Standard at that time.

The stringent Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act of 1995 was replaced with the new law on January 16, according to the Commissioner of Excise and Narcotics L Hmunsanga.
However, according to the new law drinking in public, drunken driving and creating nuisance in an inebriated condition would result in severe punishment including imprisonment for several months. The government has already hauled several people and given them harsh punishment that included civic duties and fines during the first 5 days of the enactment of the new policy.

Though the new MLPC Act is now in force, ‘wine shops’ would be able to sell liquor only from March. Preparations are in full swing for the implementation of the new law. There is a possibility that the retail wine shops would be run by sick PSUs like Mizoram Food and Allied Industries Ltd (MIFCO).

This is yet another example of prohibition being unsuccessful in India or any other civilized society in the world except where it is strictly controlled by religion or a despotic rule. The earlier experiments have failed in Haryana, Mumbai and Tamil Nadu. Gujarat which is the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi enacted prohibition from the day it was born 54 years ago but is considered a haven for bootleggers and smugglers. The State government has now allowed permits to be issued to tourists and other travelers arriving through three of its busiest airports and even the non-resident Gujaratis have welcomed the move.

One of the reasons given for the repealing of the old Act is that the State had been feeling the pinch of lost excise revenues –a factor that is bound to hit Kerala which would lose out on around Rs. 9000 crores a year in the excise and other taxes and will soon be finding it difficult to run the state. The Kerala experiment has one interesting aspect though; the government has allowed the wine and beer bars. If it allows the continued functioning of these bars, it might have licked the problem of alcoholism in the State.

In the meantime, Mizoram would do well to make it feasible to allow more quantity of wine and beer in lieu of 6 bottles allowed in a month- say 24 bottles of wine or 48 bottles of beer instead. This implies 4 bottles of wine or 8 bottles of beer in lieu of 1 bottle of liquor. This would help the people to gradually wean off from liquor.

It is also interesting that the legal drinking age has been kept at 21 years. In Delhi, it is 25 years and the government ought to keep its eyes open and reduce it to 21 years too for reasons discussed on many platforms- the cliché  of voting age at 18 and marriageable age of 21m/18f  being just a  couple of them. Strict enforcement of anti- drunk laws as are already being followed in Mizoram is commendable and needs to be followed as an example.

Subhash Arora

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Tags: Mizoram, Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act

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