Nitish dares Akhilesh to ban liquor in U.P.

LUCKNOW,OMAR RASHID:Intensifying his drive against liquor, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday dared his Uttar Pradesh counterpart Akhilesh Yadav to implement prohibition in the country’s most populous State.

Mr. Kumar, who is trying to use prohibition as a poll issue in U.P., alleged that the State government was trying to profit from the ban in his State by increasing the number of shops on the border with Bihar. The JD(U) chief reacted to the recent incidents of crime and accidents in Bihar, saying he was “deeply saddened and worried” by them and would not rest till the guilty were brought to justice. He, however, contended that ever since the liquor ban came into place, the crime rate and overall number of accidents had fallen in Bihar.

Felicitated by women
“I want to tell Akhilesh, go ahead and prohibit liquor in U.P. Don’t worry about the revenue in the short run; in the long run everyone will be happy,” Mr. Kumar said at an event here organised by the Kisan Manch. He was felicitated by women for the decision to ban liquor. However most of the women at the event were forced to sit outside in the heat while men occupied the seats inside.

Mr. Kumar claimed there was a multi-fold increase in the number of liquor shops in districts bordering Bihar after the ban. “On the Siwan-Deoria border, the base rate for liquor has increased five times, from Rs 6.25 lakh to 30.25 lakh,” he claimed.

Essentials ignored
Commenting on the loss of revenue, Mr. Kumar said the liquor business had no moral justification and the short-term revenue loss would pale when compared to the long-term benefits. Mr. Kumar estimated tipplers in U.P. spend around Rs 60,000 crore a year on liquor, an amount that could be spent on essential items like nutritious food and milk.

The UP government has set a revenue target of Rs 19,000 crore from liquor in 2016-17.

Reacting to Mr Kumar’s call for prohibition in U.P., the SP government said he was trying to confuse voters before the 2017 elections. Spreading propaganda over prohibition and the possibilities of a mahagathbandan would only “strengthen communal forces,” SP spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said, adding that when Bihar was burning, its leaders were busy in “touring”.