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Posted: Saturday, 06 March 2021 22:23

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Congress in Mizoram apologises for removing Prohibition in 2015

March 06: It seems to be a season of apologies from the Congress Party with Rahul Gandhi conceding recently that the Emergency declared by his grandmother Indira Gandhi was wrong and now followed by the former Finance Minister of Mizoram, State in the North-East India that was Dry for 18 years from 1997-2015 when the Congress Party had reversed the alcohol policy and lost the elections because the Church was strongly against the new policy in the Christian- dominated State, writes Subhash Arora

The opposition Congress Party on Monday tendered an apology to churches and civil society organisations of Mizoram for allowing the opening of liquor shops in the Christian-majority state six years ago, which, it feels, led to their defeat in the 2018 assembly polls. Prohibition had been removed during 2015-2019.

Mizoram became a "completely dry state" again in May 2019 following a new liquor law that prohibited the sale and consumption of alcohol. "The Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition) Bill, 2019 was passed unanimously in the state Assembly on March 20, 2019. The Bill replaced the four-year-old Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control) or MLPC Act, 2014.

Under the new Act, provisions were made exclude the defence personnel and tourists who can consume liquor maintaining some restrictions. People under medical treatment are allowed to drink alcohol if prescribed by a doctor.

Also Read : JAI HO to Meghalaya for Legalising Fruit Wines

Former Mizoram health minister and Congress leader Lal Thanzara apologised for the “wrongs” committed by the Congress during its decade-long two terms between 2008 and 2018.

Former chief minister and Congress president Lal Thanhawla’s brother, Lal Thanzara, admitted that the main reason for Congress suffering a humiliating defeat in the last assembly poll in 2018 was due to the opening of wine shops.

“We opened wine shops and issued alcohol permits against the interest of churches and NGOs, which was the main reason for our defeat in the last assembly polls. Our leaders have promised not to issue liquor permits if we are voted back to power in the next assembly polls in 2023. We tender an apology to the churches and NGOs for our errors,” Lal Thanzara said, according to NDTV.

Also Read : Prohibition: Bootlegging Business in Booze Born in Bihar

Mizoram government had passed a bill in July 2014, allowing opening wine shops (retail liquor stores) under strictly controlled environment to generate additional tax revenue of Rs. 300 million. Apparently, this move back-fired on them and the Party lost the elections badly.

Thanzara also said the Congress is learning from its past mistakes and reforming itself so people vote it back to power. In the last assembly polls held in November 2018, the ruling MNF won a clear majority by bagging 26 out of 40 seats- Congress won 5 and BJP 1 while the balance 8 seats were captured by 8 independent candidates. Later, MNF also won the by-poll in Aizawl West too.

Also Read : Love Potion No. 7 from Mizoram

It is not known whether the Sacramental wine offered during the Holy Mass at various Churches in the state is exempt from the blanket ban though- most likely it would be allowed. It was allowed in Bihar when prohibition was enforced in April 2016 and was welcomed by the 130,000 strong Christian community. Sacramental wine is a symbolic representation for the blood of Jesus Christ and is essential offering during the special prayer services held at various churches in the State.

A vast majority of people in Mizoram (87%) are Christians-7,27,000 are considered Christians according to Wikipedia.

Interestingly, the Zawlaidi label introduced in this Seven-Sister state in North-east in 2010 continues to run although the State and the government now monitors production and sets a quota for distribution to licensed vendors- within the state. Champhai & Hnahlan Grape Winery, with vineyards spread across the two villages uses Bangalore Blue picked by hundreds of farmers from the Champhai Grape Growers Society, a co-operative spread across ten villages.

Also Read : Mizoram State Turns Semi Dry

Interestingly, Haryana, the adjoining State of Delhi had imposed prohibition in July 1996 but in less than 2 years, Chief Minister Bansi Lal had lifted it on 1 April 1998 as it had failed miserably. Experts said that prohibition had been ineffective because of large-scale smuggling and the power of the strong liquor Mafia. There were reportedly 88,000 legal cases registered for violations of prohibition laws. The ineffective imposition of prohibition cost the state Rs 1,200 crore loss.

Loss of revenue is one reason most politicians are unable to force prohibition in States- increased black-marketing, smuggling and other illegal activities notwithstanding.

Subhash Arora

 

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