Imphal: As the N Biren Singh-led BJP government decided to lift the liquor prohibition Act which had been enforced in Manipur for more than three decades, the Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee Thursday stepped up its offensive against the Chief Minister accusing him of weakening the civil society organisation, especially the Nupi Samaj who have been sweated and sacrificed for ‘nisha bandh’ in Manipur.
The desperate attempt to legalise alcohol by lifting prohibition is only to save the BJP government in the state from total bankruptcy and to patronise the rich, said Hareshwar Goshwami, senior Congress leader and spokesperson, MPCC here.
“Please stop spreading false propaganda…there is no ‘good alcohol is good for health. Legalisation of alcohol is not related to revenue at all. This will only lead to the death of many common people and bring utter chaos in society,” Goshwami said in a media briefing at Congress Bhawan.
The State government in September this year decided to lift the liquor prohibition partially. An increase in liver and kidney disease among a section of the population due to the consumption of illicit liquor illegally imported to the state was said to be the main reason for the move.
Recapping a brief history of the emergence of Nisha Bandh organisations in Manipur, the Congress leader said the Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act, 1991, was enacted and published in Manipur Gazette on 1st April 1991 during the tenure of former Chief Minister RK Ranbir Singh after a series of agitations and protests by many civil society organisations, especially a united forum known as All Manipur Women Social Reformation and Development Samaj, popularly known as Nupi Samaj. The Nupi Samaj galvanized its activities vigorously after the killing incident of a woman by her husband on the issue of ‘money for drinking’ (yu-thak-shel) and the burning of a woman by pouring kerosene on the same issue somewhere in the Imphal area.
Because of such atrocities, the Nupi Samaj accelerated its activities and organized a statewide Band (shut down) on 2nd April 1980, demanding total prohibition. Numerous agitations followed, Goshwami added.
The former bureaucrat-turned-politician further said, the foremost Nisha-Band organization is said to have emerged at Kakching Khullen on 30th December 1975. On that fateful day, a woman who went to a local liquor vendor to stop her husband from drinking was badly thrashed by the vendor runners. Womenfolk of the area gathered in large numbers in solidarity with the victim and reportedly formed the first Nisha-Band group with Kshetrimayum Achoubi Devi as President and N. Modhu Singh, Advocate as Secretary.
The ‘Prohibition Act’ is an outcome of the sweat and sacrifice of the nisha bandh ima-ibels of Manipur, Goshwami contended.
Countering the statement that lifting of prohibition will increase revenue, the Congress leader said that the present BJP government is bankrupt and has no other means to make money (to run the government) except by selling this toxic element that kills people slowly and creating social and domestic unrest. The legalisation of liquor seems to be the only way out to cope with the crisis of a ‘ruined exchequer’, Goshwami charged, adding that the government never made any genuine attempts to stop the sale of illicit liquor in the state. The raids which are conducted by police and other concerned departments are done mostly to eye-wash the general public and are simply a political gimmick, he continued.
The Congress leader questioned whether the state government would follow the same prohibition in Gujarat to Manipur if they truly endorsed their leaders from Gujarat.