Prohibition: ‘Dry’ on paper, wet in reality

Staff Reporter DIMAPUR, DEC 5 (NPN) | Publish Date: 12/5/2019 11:35:08 AM IST

Though Nagaland had been declared a “dry” State, at least on papers, after Nagaland Legislative Assembly passed the Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act (NLTPA) in 1989, it is an open secret that liquor is easily available in every nook and corner of the State.

There is still the debate whether prohibition should be effectively implemented or completely revoked.

With the ongoing Hornbill Festival and the ensuing festive season, liquor is now being openly sold in shops, restaurants, hotels, resorts, pan shops and even served at VIP events. Most restaurants, especially in Dimapur and Kohima, even have separate menu for alcohol, while many shops, decorated with packaged water bottles and other items, sell liquor in broad daylight as well.

However, what is worrying is that alcohol sold in the market is mostly adulterated, and has taken the lives of many individuals already. These illicit activities have been continuing for the last 30 years, while those in the authority have not been able to effectively implement the Act, making it a mockery by giving a free hand to the bootleggers.

The Church and several civil society groups have been vocal against legalising sale of liquor. However, the role of many in the fight against liquor has been in question.

The fight is not only about enforcing, but to create awareness about the ill-effects as well as providing counselling, etc.

On the other side, despite the State losing revenue, the sale of illicit liquor has also not only drained out the wealth but the health of its people as well.

Some in the authority pointed out that prohibition has only helped the bootleggers mint money through sale of adulterated liquor at exorbitant rates. And many of whom are hand in glove with those having “parallel authority or the higher-ups”, an official on condition of anonymity told this reporter. The big fishes having their links with the who’s who have become untouchable, he added.

When the question is posed as to whether prohibition was a boon or a bane, the official said it had become a bane. “Honestly, it has sucked the dry State drier, not only of its revenue but many precious lives have been lost too due to consumption of adulterated liquor,” he specified. 

However, the official said that the issue was sensitive and debatable, and no one dared to speak the truth.

It is an open secret that banned Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL) is being sold in some venues of the State-sponsored Hornbill Festival.

When this reporter visited the ongoing Hornbill Music Festival (HMF) at Agri Expo Site, 4th Mile here, most of the visitors were found to be drawn more towards those stalls selling alcohol.

Alcohol products like canned beer and wine, including the local brew (though it does not fall under NLTPA), were openly displayed and sold like any other item.

Interestingly, visitors at the Agri Expo site were checked before entering the venue. However, transporting into the venue could be a reason for oversight, one person who was checked sarcastically commented.

Similar selling of liquor at Hornbill Festival site at Naga Heritage Village is also an open secret.

Recently, organisations like Southern Angami Youth Organisation (SAYO) had done their bit by carrying out surprise checks at the main Hornbill Festival venue, where around eight stalls were caught with prohibited items.

SAYO volunteers seized foreign liquor, juice bottles, plastic bags, pan masala and other items.

So when liquor is sold openly in State-sponsored events, those in power do not have any moral authority to ask the public to follow the rule. By remaining a mute spectator, all fingers will point towards those in power for making a mockery of NLTPA, one person commented.

Consumption of industrially-manufactured alcohol is a matter of great concern all over the world. That’s why nowhere in the world its production, sale and consumption are unregulated. It may be a different story that in some places it is more stringent than the other, but nevertheless it is regulated.

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