Madhya Pradesh government takes sharp U-turn on proposed liquor ban

Madhya Pradesh govt has retreated from CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s announcement that shutting of 58 liquor shops located within five km of Narmada river was the ‘first phase’ of a statewide liquor ban


Kashif Kakvi

After Bihar introduced Prohibition in 2016, banning the sale of liquor, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had mulled introducing Prohibition in the state, with an eye on elections.

Chouhan subsequently shut 58 liquor shops located within five km of the bank of river Narmada during his ‘Narmada Sewa Yatra’, and also promised a blanket ban on the sale of liquor in the state before the assembly elections, slated for late in 2018. At the time, Chouhan had announced that shutting of the liquor shops near the banks of the Narmada was the ‘first phase' of statewide liquor ban.

However, Chouhan’s plans were foiled when Jayant Malaiya, Madhya Pradesh Finance Minister said in the state assembly during the monsoon session that banning sale of liquor would hurt the government’s coffers and will also hurt the sentiments of the tribal population of the state. It is worth mentioning that Madhya Pradesh has the largest tribal population in the country with 14.7%. As per the 2011 census, there are 46 different tribal communities in the state.

MP Finance Minister Malaiya says no proposal for prohibition under consideration

Malaiya also claimed that "The World Health Organisation concluded that completed prohibition on liquor would be irrational in the present context", while replying to a question by Congress MLA Jitu Patwari. Patwari had asked if any proposal for statewide liquor ban was under consideration. Malaiya replied in the negative, saying, “Currently, there is no proposal is under consideration.”

Malaiya further argued that post-Independence, prohibition was imposed in 10 states—Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Bihar. However, Mizoram, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Kerala and Tamil Nadu later lifted the ban. Later, Malaiya quoted an American Author, Sam Harris to convince the house, “Evidence affirms the sound economic theory which predicts that prohibition of mutually beneficial exchange is doomed to failure.” The sale of liquor generates revenue worth ₹8,500 crore per annum, which the state government uses to fund public welfare schemes.

The state government’s U-turn on its liquor prohibition plan may affect its prospects in the upcoming assembly election. After CM Chouhans’s announcements, several campaigns had been launched to make Madhya Pradesh a dry state.

Speaking to the media later, Patwari said “The government has taken U-turns on many issues; liquor prohibition is one of them. The CM has turned the state into a ‘state of drunkards’. Most of the youth started drinking liquor due to its frequent availability, which is fatal for their health. They don’t care about youth.”

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