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Manipur govt. urged to withdraw Bill allowing brewing of liquor

The Select Committee of the Manipur Legislative Assembly had recently given its approval to allow the brewing of the high alcohol liquor for commercial export to other States.

Anti-liquor groups, women vigilantes and people in general have taken a strong exception to the final touches given by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition Ministry in Manipur to allow the brewing of the high alcohol liquor for commercial export to other States.

The Select Committee of the Manipur Legislative Assembly had recently given its approval to The Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act, 1991 (2nd Amendment).

Opposing the government policy, the Coalition Against Drugs and Alcohol (CADA) is asking the government to withdraw this Bill.

The women vigilantes who had taken up the cudgels against the untrammelled sale and consumption of liquor are huddling to chalk out their next campaign. In the early 1970s, they had maintained nocturnal vigil. Repeat offenders of drinking and bootlegging were tonsured, forced to walk around with garlands of empty bottles and shout out their names and offences. In some cases they paid fines which the vigilantes used to run their offices and meet other expenses. Sometime later “cooperative policemen” volunteered to accompany the women during their raids in view of the sporadic reports of confrontations with the bootleggers. But soon the women found that most of the bootleggers were tipped off about the raids.

Later insurgents joined the anti-liquor campaign, forcing offenders to swim in the icy winter night or bashing them up. Repeat offenders were kneecapped by the insurgents. Though these actions had the desired result, some sections felt that they resulted in the jacking up of illicit liquor prices.

In the 1980s, Manipur used to earn annual revenue amounting to around ₹40 crore from the 65 foreign liquor shops and three bonded warehouses. No revenue was officially collected from the ubiquitous roadside shops and kiosks which did a brisk business by illegally selling IMFL bottles under the nose of the police and excise personnel.

The State government says that after the enforcement of the amended Act, the exchequer will collect between ₹350 and ₹400 crore as tax. The CADA questions this claim and points out that as Manipuri rice is used in brewing the high alcohol liquor more rice will be diverted for this and the State will be more dependent on the Central largesse.

One excuse given by the government is that several communities offer liquor to their forefathers and it will be an infringement of their tradition if brewing of liquor is banned. However, the CADA says that no religion says that liquor should be brewed on commercial quantum. Sources said that some businessmen with high connections had got advance information with the result that they had started producing some bottled Manipuri liquor brands in trial runs.

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