Sunday, May 22, 2022

Review or scrap Total Prohibition Act: State Congress

By EMN Updated: Sep 02, 2014 12:34 am

Dimapur, September 1

As the debate over Prohibition Act rages, the Congress party in the State affirmed to stand by its earlier statement that the State government should review the NLTP Act, 1989 to make it more stringent or scrap it if it does not have the political will to strictly enforce the prohibition across the State.
“The Congress remains committed to prohibition but cannot remain a silent spectator when the ruling NPF-led DAN government for the past 11 years had shown remarkable indifference to render the NLTP Act, 1989 ineffective,” CLP leader Tokheho Yepthomi said in a statement today.The Congress noted that the debate on the Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act, 1989 has occupied enough pages in local dailies ever since the issue of reviewing the Act was discussed in the last Assembly session and Leader of the House committed to convene a special session of the Assembly to debate the issue. While welcoming public opinion from different quarters, the Congress said the political language spoken in the State Assembly has been misinterpreted especially by some church leaders who have gone overboard to even denounce the legislators for talking about reviewing the NLTP Act.
With the NLTP Act, 1989 entering its 25th year, the CLP admitted that it is an open fact that enforcing prohibition has been a total failure for which every stakeholder is collectively responsible.
The party also alleged that the State government has taken a lackadaisical approach towards enforcing prohibition which is easily reflected by the meager strength of Excise department field staff across 11 districts.
“As CLP Leader, I had repeatedly highlighted in the State Assembly the teething problem of manpower shortage faced by the Excise department and requested the government for creation of posts for at least 100 personnel,” Tokheho said. But this request was conveniently turned down by the Leader of the House citing lack of funds while it had no such issues in appointing 10,781 employees during 2012-13 and another 4791 employees during 2013-14, he stated.
The Congress recalled that the issue of prohibition was also raised in the last 11th NLA wherein the then Excise Minister MC Konyak in response to a query had declared on the floor of the House that even locally brewed drinks fall under the purview of prohibition. “Unfortunately, in recent years the State government in the garb of promoting our culture and traditions has openly endorsed sale of locally brewed drinks thereby giving false impression that liquor prohibition is only confined to IMFL and Beers,” Tokeheho said.
He said while various church leaders and some concerned public through different write ups have made their intentions known against lifting or even relaxing liquor prohibition in the State, their voices are strangely never heard when it pertains to the issues that have made mockery of prohibition.
The CLP leader pointed these issues as: serving of liquor during any official functions like the State banquets in some particular rooms becoming a routine affair, open endorsement of locally brewed drinks in public places especially during Hornbill Festival and other tribal festivals organized by the State government, free flow of IMFL and beer at the festival venue after invoking God’s blessing by our respected Church leaders at the start of the programme, mushrooming of many high end liquor joints in Kohima and Dimapur and free availability of liquor and locally brewed drinks in every nook and corner of the State and lawbreakers in the form of a minister and MLA caught carrying liquor in their convoys on different occasions violating the Prohibition Act and in defiance of NBCC’s Clean Election Campaign.
However, not a single soul or an organization, including church bodies, had voiced out against these leaders for their illegal activities, Tokheo pointed out.
He opined that taking a high moral stand without addressing the issue of laxity in strictly enforcing the Prohibition Act will never yield results as desired by some church leaders and moral guardians. The open flow of spurious liquor manufactured and bottled in nearby Khatkati area bordering Dimapur has taken immense toll on the health of the drinkers while the high cost of liquor has driven some other people to resort to drug abuse which is found to be cheaper but a dangerous option, he said.
He maintained that the NLTP Act, 1989 that has been in place for 25 years without any changes has become obsolete in today’s context. If the government is really serious about enforcing liquor prohibition, the Act needs to be reviewed and amended so as to make it more stringent and serve as deterrent to habitual offenders who get away with minimal punishment.
With such a token fine of Rs 500, Rs 1000 and Rs 2000 in present times, bootleggers of every category are emboldened to carry on their activities unhindered as the low amount of fine can be paid even by the daily wage earners if caught and convicted under the Prohibition Act, he stated. Moreover, Tokheho said, as mandated under Section 27 of NLTP Act, 1989, the State government has to constitute a Prohibition Council and Committee at the State and district levels, but this has never materialized till date.
The enforcing agencies and more particularly the Excise department has to be given enough manpower with strong administrative and logistic support, he stressed.
“In the quest for total prohibition, every citizen is a stakeholder and therefore rational reasoning should prevail rather than adopt a belligerent approach that will only serve the purpose of big time bootleggers who have taken great advantage of the state government’s indifferent attitude towards liquor prohibition,” the CLP leader said.
“The underlying feature of whether liquor prohibition is lifted or strictly enforced, non drinkers will still abstain from drinking while drinkers will continue to find ways and means to get hold of liquor irrespective of cost or quality,” Tokheho added.

By EMN Updated: Sep 02, 2014 12:34:50 am