June 21: The Baptist Church of Mizoram (BCM) says the State could soon face a shortage of sacramental wine as the stock at the Champhai winery which supplies this wine is drying up due to the state government’s dithering on the issue of manufacture, sale and consumption of wine, according to a TOI report
The Church leaders said the sacramental wine stock might last only for 2 to 3 months as the Champhai winery could not manufacture it due to the policy of the state government. HS Vanlalfakzuala, chairman of the Champhai Grape Growers Society (CGGS), told TOI that the CGGS and the Baptist Church of Mizoram had signed an MoU in 2019 for purchase of special sacramental wine manufactured in Champhai. The special 9% alcohol wine was manufactured in accordance with the wishes of church leaders and the provisions of the new law. It is not a profitable business for the CGGS but regular supply was ensured by the church.
Some shops in the capital city of Aizawl were raided on May 27 when the state excise and narcotics department officials seized a huge number of wine cases worth at least Rs 12 lakh. Since then the CGGS and Hnahlan Grape Growers’ Society have been reluctant to produce more wine.
The statement made by the state excise and narcotics minister Dr K Beichhua that anything containing alcohol could be seized under the Mizoram Liquor Prohibition Act, 2019, greatly disturbed the grape growers and the wine manufacturers.
Also Read : Wine Bottles Seizure in Mizoram causes great Stress
Mizoram is one of the Seven Sister States in North Eastern India, sharing borders with the states of Tripura, Assam, Manipur and with the neighbouring countries of Bangladesh and Myanmar. It became the 23rd state of India on 20 February 1987 with Aizawl as its capital-after years of insurgency.
The state had been under dry law for 13 years, as the Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act was enforced in the state two years after formulation. Wine processing from grapes was allowed in the state after the act was amended in April 2007. The main reason of this progressive amendment had been to increase the earning opportunities for the local villagers who produce bumper crops of grapes but are unable to sell them
The State is the second state in India to enforce prohibition. The only other state is Gujarat (followed by Kerala in recent years), where it has been enforced since 1961. States like Andhra Pradesh and Haryana tried it but back-tracked later after they found it created more problems.
Also Read : Congress in Mizoram apologises for removing Prohibition in 2015
India is a Federal Republic with States empowered to formulate their own alcohol policy under Article 47 of the Constitution which encourages them to prohibit the use of alcohol. Mizoram relaxed its policy in 2007 allowing production and consumption of wine using grapes and bottling wine from its own State, with an alcohol level of 16%.
Lubrusca variety is not known to produce high quality wine. Even internationally, Lubrusca (also known as Labrusca) varieties like Concord and Catawba are known to produce foxy or musky wines not much liked. Vitis Vinifera which was introduced in the 1990s by wineries like Grover and Sula followed later by Fratelli.
The Mizoram government had decided to repeal prohibition 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. The Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition) Bill, 2019’ was introduced in March, 2019, once again banning wine and alcohol in the State, except for the quantities required by the Church.
Also Read : Mizoram goes Dry- Once Again
Excise minister K Beichhua had recently said the rules of the new liquor law, drafted based on the assessment of a committee that involved officials, NGOs and churches, have been approved by the cabinet and would be notified soon.
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