Sunday, September 25, 2022
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Editorial

Tackling the Controversial Prohibition Act

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By The Editorial Team Updated: Sep 22, 2022 11:50 pm
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It seems like Manipur will soon get rid of the “dry state” tag more than three decades after the government enacted the Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act, 1991, as the state Cabinet had decided to partially lift it in a meeting chaired by Chief Minister N Biren Singh on Tuesday. It said such a step is necessary owing to a major health issue witnessed in the state in the form of ‘liver and kidney diseases’ arising out of spurious liquor consumption. As expected, the move has evoked opposition from a civil society organisation and more could follow from some pockets but the people are aware that the “dry state” tag is just a mockery and complete banning of alcohol is next to impossible. Ironically, both the defenders and antagonists of the controversial Act are fighting for a common goal — to prevent health issues – but in contradictory ways. However, a look at the past 31 years tells that the Prohibition Act is a farce. Despite the crackdowns by the state Excise department, which has been given the task to regulate and implement the Act, as well as civil society groups, smugglers continue to bring Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) into the state. This wouldn’t have happened if there is no demand. The restriction only led to highly inflated rate, adulteration of alcohol and boom in spurious liquor. Many lives have been cut short by health complications caused by consumption of counterfeit drinks and this will continue in the absence of an alternative. There is no denying the fact that both supply and consumption of alcohol can’t be stopped and that counterfeit items affect the body more than the licensed ones, so Manipur Cabinet’s recent decision to partially lift the prohibition is a move in the right direction.

Having said that, the state government should clearly list what is permitted and what is not while framing the partial lifting regulation. The Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act has allowed the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities to brew local liquor for traditional purposes, however, the local liquor like those produced at Sekmai, which has earned notoriety for alleged adulteration, should be approved by experts for consumption. The practice of bootlegging, adulteration and sale of IMFL should be stopped. Nagaland state too requires a similar approach as the NLTP Act 1989 remains only on paper, becoming a blessing in disguise for neighbouring states. In fact, the state government had mooted a partial lifting of the Act earlier this year and had even convened a meeting with civil organisations but without a positive result. Considering the backdrop on which the Act was enacted, the government faces the risk of receiving backlash, especially from religious groups if it if lifted but it is inevitable- if not today, tomorrow; not entirely for revenue but for health reasons. We can’t live in denial for much longer.

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By The Editorial Team Updated: Sep 22, 2022 11:50:45 pm