Maha Govt. Move: Liquor To Flow Freely After 6-Years In Chandrapur

Mumbai:  In a politically sensitive decision, the Maharashtra government on Thursday revoked the 6-year-old prohibition imposed in Chandrapur district of the Vidarbha region, an official said here.

The decision to lift the liquor ban in the district – enforced since April 2015 – was taken at a Cabinet meeting presided over by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

This reverses the move by the then Bharatiya Janata Party-led regime of chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who has criticised the Maha Vikas Aghadi government’s move, terming it as ‘regrettable’, besides evoking mixed reactions from different sections of society.

Now only two districts – Wardha and Gadchiroli – remain ‘dry’ in the state, the former owing to its close connections with Mahatma Gandhi and the latter due to public demand in the Maoist-hit district since 1992.

Justifying the government decision, an official said that it was mainly due to the burgeoning sales of illicit liquor and growing crimes in the district witnessed in the past 6 years, when all liquor licences were cancelled.

However, after the ban, the former BJP-led government had assured to appoint a committee to study issue following a discussion in the state assembly in July 2018.

Set up in January this year, the 13-member expert committee, headed by retired Principal Secretary Ramanath Jha had submitted its report to the MVA government on March 9, 2021 with its recommendations.

Among the findings were that the prohibition in Chandrapur was largely unsuccessful as it spurred the sale of illicit liquor which was a health hazard besides rampant blackmarketing and inter-district smuggling of alcohol in the district.

The government’s potential earning from the sale of legal liquor had been severely hit while anti-social or criminal elements benefited hugely from the prohibition.

Another worrying factor was the increasing involvement of women and children in the illicit liquor trade in the district, it pointed out.

As per official data, prior to prohibition, there were 16,132 cases registered between 2010-2014 which shot up to 40,381 between 2016-2019.

While there were only 1,729 cases against women before the liquor ban, they shot up to 4,042 after prohibition was implemented, besides a growing number of children being used for the illicit liquor trade.

This resulted in many public organisations, citizens and locals voting in favour of lifting the ban on liquor which the Jha Committee accepted and recommended.

The state lost Excise Duty of around Rs.1,606 crore from Chandrapur district in the past five years due to prohibition, besides loss of Rs.964-crore due to a drop in Sales Tax income, resulting in a total loss of Rs.2,570-crore to the state exchequer.

The Committee also said that many village panchayats, women’s groups, religious organisations , lawyers, media and citizens sent nearly 243,627 lakh petitions or appeals to the Collector demanding the ban should be revoked, while only 25,876 wanted prohibition to continue in the district.