15,000 arrested in Bihar in two months for defying Prohibition but...
Arrests, denial of bail, hefty fines and prison terms do not seem to be having much of an effect on tipplers and bootleggers in Bihar but police are having a good time, suggest anecdotal evidence
Drink but only after 10 pm, advised former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi. The elite, he told his constituents, drink late at night and escape getting caught. But the poor, he lamented, were getting drunk during the day or too early in the evening.
The advice came in the wake of Bihar Police arresting as many as 15,000 people since November 2021 after being found drinking or in possession of liquor. Over 300,000 people are either in jail or have been released on bail, suggest media reports, for flouting Prohibition.
Besides a thriving black market in sale of liquor, enterprising bootleggers continue to deliver liquor at home. A doctor confided that he would often spend the evening with friendly police officers and share a drink. “It’s safe,” he explained.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar remains unfazed by criticism. Those who want to write, may write; those who want to speak, may speak. But don’t expect me to go back on prohibition, which is a Constitutional duty and was desired by Mahatma Gandhi, he told a gathering recently. “They say tourism will suffer, the hospitality industry will suffer. I say, let them suffer. Those who want to drink should not come to Bihar. We don’t need your investment,” he raved.
Reading out from a sheaf of paper, the CM claimed that consuming liquor precipitated 200 different diseases, including HIV (AIDS) and Hepatitis.
Unaware of the CM’s crusade against liquor, a visiting doctor from London last month landed in jail. He had been working in Mumbai before securing a job in England. Returning to the country to get married, he brought a bottle of wine for his father living in a bordering town in Jharkhand.
When a police team knocked on his door in a Patna hotel and asked if he had any liquor, the unsuspecting and unwary doctor had replied in the affirmative and truthfully produced the liquor bottle.
Special Excise Courts set up for trials rarely grant bail. In the Patna High Court, some judges are known for denying bail in excise cases while a few allow bail after imposing fines. Earlier fines were deposited in the CM’s Relief Fund and PM-CARES fund. Fines are now deposited into the account of High Court Legal Services Authority.
Bail also depends on whether police file charges under section 37 ‘B’ for being found drunk alone or under 37 ‘C’ for unruly behaviour in a drunken state! Arguing with the police or not going along with what they advise often determine which section is to be slapped.
Meanwhile, liquor continue to be recovered from gas cylinders, ambulances, under seat covers and false ceilings in cars, hidden compartments in trucks and in tractor tyres. Bee-keeping boxes and baskets of sweets are also being used to store and transport liquor.
It’s a busy time for Bihar Police!
(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday)