Bihar has been an experimenting ground for liquor ban in past. In 1979, Karpoori Thakur imposed a prohibition on liquor but the ban was lifted by Ram Sundar Das in wake of corruption and bootlegging. The chapter of liquor ban was again repeated by Nitish Kumar which came into action on 1st April 2016. A positive sign was visible when the data of the Bihar police was made public. The total cognizable offences registered in 2015 were 195.397 compared to 189.681 cases in 2016 after prohibition. When compared the rate of crime year wise, the crime rate was noticeably low after prohibition though calling Bihar a dry state will be unfair.
The unavailability of alcohol is just a matter of formality but its availability is visible in every corner of the state with utmost cautiousness.
Midst of heated atmosphere, liquor ban was condemned by the civil society, intelligentsia and the mainly by the marginalized section of society. Though Bihar government stubbornly stood on proclaiming lowering down of the domestic violence which was part and parcel of rural Bihar the move met failures at every stage. A report by the Indian Express report covering data of three central jails of Gaya, Motihari and Patna, 10 district jails and nine sub-jails clearly highlighted that most of the convictions were from the low and marginalized sections of the society.
AFTER LIQUOR, DRUGS A NEW MENACE–
This rise in intake of narcotic drugs all of a sudden in Bihar popped up as a troublesome sign. The upsurge in usage of addictive drugs was since 2015 and after liquor ban, the liquor underwent an intoxicant substitution/replacement by other narcotic drugs. Report of government agencies which came as big setback for Bihar government indicated that there was a steep rise in use of psychotropic substances and drugs such as- ganja, bhang, opium, cough syrup. Here is the timeline of reports and decisions siting incidences of rampant increase of drug use.
- In 2015, the minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Thawar Chand Gehlot in the parliament tabled the statistics on the sale of psychotropic drugs in the state of Bihar. It witnessed seizure of ganja (14.37 kg), heroin (1.12 kg), opium (1.97 kg) while it was almost negligible for hashish and poppy husk/straw in 2015.
- In 2016, the report from Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) surfaced in public domain which said, “There was a survey to collect inputs on smuggling of psychotropic substances in various parts of Bihar such, Purnea, Kishanganj and East Champaran. The inputs revealed that liquor addicts are now switching over to narcotic drugs such as Ganja, Heroin, Cough syrups, Hashish to satisfy their addiction. In at least 10 days or so, Bihar witnessed almost 25% increase in sale of these substances”.
- Witnessing this, the same year, the state government took a decision of sending doctors from the state to get trained in the de-addiction program. The 38 medical officers from the state undertook training at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru. These doctors were sent to the country’s premier mental healthcare institute by the Bihar government with the hope that they will be equipped to deal with what seems to be a particularly pernicious fallout of the state’s rising drug menace and prohibition policy. De-addiction centres were established in all 38 districts of Bihar but most of such clinics are located in district headquarters on contrary the addicts in villages hail from poor families, failing to visit centres on a sustained basis. According to the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases, alcoholism is a psychiatric disorder. But on the other hand majority of Bihar’s de-addiction centres lack the services of a psychiatrist. The training at NIMHANS might help the state’s medical officers shed some of their traditional thinking about alcoholics but that would hardly be a substitute for specialist psychiatric care. Doctors carrying out the de-addiction program feel that though the government had created infrastructure for de-addiction centres, the lack of required trained personnel had handicapped their functioning, making them incapable of providing relief to the liquor addicts. A.K.Shahi, member of State Health Society Bihar and state program officer, de-addiction centres said, “About 25 per cent of cases in these de-addiction centers now are related to abuse of other substances, mostly opioids, cannabis, inhalants and sedatives.” In a telephonic interview, Dr. Prabhat Chand, additional professor, Department of Psychiatry, Centre for Addiction Medicine, NIMHANS, Bangalore eulogized Bihar government’s move taking a firm stand against addiction. He said, “Bihar was the first state to take up the concept of de-addiction centers which would run down to the root of society where mainly the marginalized section of society would be helped by local de-addiction experts in combating addiction to drugs. It is gratifying move by the Bihar government. We expect that the state government to democratize the knowledge against harmful and ill effects of addiction to any drug & alcohol”.
- Last year in 2017, an India Today TV investigation found a huge, new black market of smuggled alcohol and an alarming spike in psychotropic substance use in the dry state.
- Data from Disha de-addiction centre, Patna also showed a fall in alcohol addiction cases and a rise in ganja and charas addiction. Talking to an official of the Disha de-addiction centre, it was clearly mentioned, “There has been a decline in liquor addicts with a rise in the use of other drugs. This is called Switch-Over of Addiction. But of late, we have noticed a change where availability of liquor through illegal means, home-delivery, has become a reality. We are also getting alcohol addict cases. Suppose if we get 50 cases of addiction, 40 will be of drug addicts and 10 will be of alcohol.”
Nitish Kumar’s liquor ban practically was a decision in haste without attention and regards to studies that proved prohibition as a poor method of addressing the adverse consequences of alcohol abuse. Revenue loss to black marketing of liquor to unholy nexus between a liquor mafia and law enforcement agencies to atrocities on marginalized manufacturers of the country made liquor to rise in drug use and resorting to de-addiction centres symbolize, the “Dry state of Bihar has transformed into a Drug state” which needs an accurate and urgent redressal.
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