However, are we heading into a different era when legal liquor based business would generate employment for the youth and eventually make the state earn adequate revenue?
By Sanjoo Thangjam
We are all familiar with the current situation in Manipur as far as the sales and consumption of liquor is concerned. It does not matter whether what we consume is locally made, Indian Made Foreign Liquor or even imported alcoholic drinks from bordering countries or far away foreign lands.
No one would deny the fact that one can get or buy liquor if he or she is willing to extra money to mushrooming illegal vendors in leikais, colonies, town corners and even crowded city areas. One is also aware of the fact that excessive consumption of liquor is bad for health and leads to complicated health issues. But the fact knocks on our door and says right on one’s face that you can get or buy drinks anytime you want in a state like Manipur.
In recent times what has been rather encouraging is the talks doing the rounds that the government is likely to consider lifting of sales and consumption of liquor in Manipur as the Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act, 1991 has not been able to effectively control or curb the sales and consumption of alcohol in Manipur. Political leaders have even agree that sale of liquor in black market and public consumption continue in spite of the prohibition. If the government of Manipur is serious on lifting the prohibition, it can only be done with firm determination and political will.
However, it is another surprising argument that how the state government and its law enforcing agencies were unable to enforce the prohibition act and command them to implement the Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act, 1991. Please note that no one hardly talks about why the law enforcing agencies have failed to control and curb the menace of alcohol consumption in the state.
There are also many unanswered questions like – are the exemption on prohibition granted to scheduled caste (SC) and scheduled tribe (ST) communities who brew liquor for traditional purposes and lifting of the prohibition in hill districts would flood the black markets leading to bigger liquor consumption by the public.
It is also not surprising how liquors specially made and labelled for consumption by the defence personnel reach the civilians. Are there special rackets and syndicates operating and earning huge profit margins in this business of selling liquors meant for defence personnel? Besides the question, we are also overburdened with the argument that prohibition of liquor has only led to sale of adulterated liquor majorly impacting public health.
We have also heard politicians say that prohibition of liquor in Manipur had dented revenue generation in the state. Their arguments finally end with the conclusion that any citizens in the state can make huge profit out of manufacturing local liquor neatly packaged into marketable designs and colour.
While we acknowledge the failure of the state government to enforce and implement the prohibition act, we also know that total prohibition of liquor in many countries of the world are not successful.
The anti-liquor prohibition lobby would argue that since the 1970s, the manufacture, sale of liqours including Indian Made Foreign Liqours had drown many educated unemployed youths and many drunk men indulged in domestic violence. This is or perhaps continues to be an undeniable reality even today. So, are the losses of state revenue and impact on health due to alcohol consumption illegally justified reasons to lift the prohibition and allow a handful of people to manufacture liqours and sale and export?
There has also been arguments that loss of revenue is perfectly alright if we can save our young generations from the jaws of an alcohol induced hell. But can the generations exposed to uncontrolled liquors earn money out of liquor or contribute to state’s generation of revenues?
Younger generations are now consuming alcohols in shady joints, bars and restaurants. And now one can ask how such liquor based businesses are allowed to run in the state? Who has been mandated to control them? Is the implementation of prohibition act not the duty of law enforcing agencies? Whatever is the case, we can only wait and watch how the state government deals with liquor sales and consumption in Manipur and note the fact that all prohibition acts have only generated uncontrolled illegal business instead of contributing to the state’s legal revenue.