Two things clearly stand out in the recent decision by the state government to lift prohibition from some areas including Greater Imphal. The first is that the Chakpa villages had been excluded from the order, which defeats the very purpose of boosting the local economy around liquor production while those who owns bonded ware houses and liquor shops and runs the imported liquor business would be greatly benefitted. The second is of the timing of the Cabinet decision.
The ethnic strife which started in the first week of May is till simmering with no end or solution in sight while the massacre of 13 Meitei youth had just occurred. It so happened that the state BJP leadership was also celebrating the victory of the party in three state assembly elections with ladoos and trumpeting the ‘return of normalcy’ even as tears were flowing down ceaselessly with the news of massacre. It shows they have little time for acknowledging public sentiment.
The sheer audacity of ‘Mu mitha karo’ celebrations and merriment was simply antagonistic and petty. They are drowning themselves in glory over victory in elections somewhere which had nothing to do with the sad predicament here but a form of idol worship of the great persona of Narendra Modi. Has Modi spoken at all about the ethnic clashes which are running for more than seven months? The attitude is no different with the change in liquor policy also.
Our support to the government move of lifting prohibition was basically aimed at the economic boost it would give to Chakpa villages whose brew is already famous. The Cabinet decision was for legalisation of production, manufacture, possession, export and import, transport, purchase, sale and consumption of liquor was approved. The part of production, manufacture and export mostly pertains to the local brew which is specially made in Chakpa villages particularly Sekmai, Phayeng and Andro. If these Chakpa villages are to be excluded, the purpose of boosting local economy is not served. And the decision would only end up in enriching the already rich folks and those in power. Yes, nearly Rs 600 crore would come in the form of taxes to the government. But, nothing on the ground.
Opposition to lifting of prohibition would always be there. The battle lines are drawn and pro-prohibitionists like Nupi Samaj and CADA coming out in the open once again. The pro-government opinion is basically about adulteration and compromise in quality of the local brew and entry of adulterated IMFL due to the extended prohibition, besides health complications caused by it. Since the decision, figures and statistics from National Family Health Survey and FSSAI on both health concerns and quality of liquor available in the state had magically appeared in newspaper reports.
Everyone knows, the government is doing everything to push its agenda. On the other hand, pro-prohibitionists are asking whether there is such a thing as good liquor. Alcohol is the main cause of domestic strife and has the potential of the wayward youth seeking refuge in it thereby leading to abuse. But, the question we have to ask ourselves is whether we have been able to actually stop the production and sale of alcohol both local brew and India Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) in the state. And, the debate should not be about whether liquor or alcohol is good or bad.
Since time immemorial, we offer it to the gods and seek blessings for good health and life without worries. Not only in offerings, it is even related to what and how we eat and drink in ‘Chakcha-Yuthak’ otherwise referred to as table manners, nowadays. There is nothing good in excess or abuse and it leads to all kinds of problems. Again, there is also the case of a White Paper which was never brought to the public domain. An expert committee had submitted its report and it was discussed only in the state Cabinet.