In a transformative move, the Manipur Cabinet has greenlit the establishment of the Manipur State Beverages Corporation Limited (MSBCL), signalling a significant shift in the state’s alcohol policies.
This decision, made during the cabinet meeting held on Friday, will legalize the production, sale, and consumption of alcohol in specific regions of the state, marking the end of over 30 years of prohibition in Manipur.
Under the purview of the finance minister, the MSBCL will operate with a board of directors comprising key secretaries responsible for diverse sectors like finance, home affairs, health, education, rural development, and municipal governance. This comprehensive oversight aims to ensure a well-rounded approach to alcohol regulation, considering various facets of public health and socio-economic welfare.
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Initially focusing on the retail sale of beverages, the corporation is slated to expand its scope to monitor the entire production and distribution chain, encompassing the manufacture, possession, purchase, sale, consumption, import-export, and transportation of beverages.
Notably, the MSBCL will also oversee the standardization and licensing for the production and sale of local liquor or Distilled Indigenous Country (DIC) Liquor, prioritizing quality control and legal compliance.
To regulate alcohol consumption responsibly, the Cabinet has set the minimum age for production, management of shops, sale, and consumption at 25 years, significantly higher than the previous minimum age of 18 years. Furthermore, strict guidelines prohibit the sale and consumption of alcohol within a 100-meter radius of educational institutions, hospitals, and places of worship. Additionally, sales are barred within 500 meters of National Highways, except in areas under Municipal governance.
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The decision to lift the prohibition came through a Gazette notification issued on December 6, lifting the ban from Greater Imphal, District Headquarters, tourist destinations, and registered hotels with a minimum of 20 rooms. This decision follows Manipur’s designation as a ‘dry state’ in 1991, albeit with exemptions for Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities for traditional liquor brewing.
In alignment with the government’s rationale, the move intends to address health concerns arising from unregulated liquor while projecting an expected annual revenue of over Rs 600 crore through regulated sales. However, criticisms from certain groups have raised concerns about potential adverse health effects and exclusive benefits for certain stakeholders.
Amid these debates, Chief Minister N Biren Singh previously announced the formation of an expert committee to thoroughly examine and report on the matter, underlining the government’s commitment to informed decision-making.
Notably, the recent cabinet meeting also reviewed and revised excise duty and VAT, signalling a comprehensive re-evaluation of taxation policies to align with the new regulatory framework. A substantial portion of the revenue collected from beverage sales and VAT will be allocated towards public health and welfare measures, highlighting a concerted effort towards societal well-being.
Manipur’s stride towards regulated alcohol sales, backed by stringent guidelines and revenue allocation for public welfare, signifies a balanced approach aimed at fostering economic growth while prioritizing community welfare and responsible consumption.