Battling criticism over repeated hooch tragedies, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar now wants drones and trained dogs to detect illegal stashes of tipplers’ delight to effectively enforce the prohibition law.
Kumar asked officials of the excise and prohibition department to explore the possibility of using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), called drones in popular language, dog squads and motorboats against the violators of the prohibition law, government sources said on Monday.
Sale and consumption of alcohol was banned in April, 2016, months after Kumar made an electoral promise to the state’s women who complained about proliferation of liquor shops and the public nuisance they caused.
Implementation of the ban has, however, often been deficient, and more than 50 people have died across the state after consuming spurious liquor since last December, much to the embarrassment of the state government.
The Bihar government was left squirming in discomfort when the Supreme Court recently dismissed its appeals challenging grant of anticipatory and regular bails to accused under the stringent liquor law, saying these matters have choked the courts, and 14-15 Patna high court judges are hearing such cases alone.
A bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana rejected the contention of the Bihar government that guidelines be framed to ensure reasoned bail orders are passed taking into account the quantity of liquor seized from an accused.
“You know how much impact this law (The Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016 ) has created in the working of the Patna High Court and it is taking one year to get a matter listed there and all the courts are choked with the liquor bail matters,” the chief justice had said.
Police action in the aftermath of liquor tragedies also triggered outrage as the out of depth men in uniform ended up arresting visitors from other states and ransacking wedding venues.
Unperturbed, the chief minister testily asked people from other states not to come to Bihar if they found the stringent prohibition law inconvenient.
He also called for public shaming of those found involved in selling or drinking liquor, and an education department circular wanted school teachers to tip-off the government officials concerned about violations of the law.
The circular was, however, withdrawn amid strong criticism of the government’s move, with many opposition leaders saying it will put the lives of teachers in danger as they would invite the wrath of the liquor mafia. The government later said the circular was “advisory” in nature.
At the meeting, Kumar directed officials to conduct a fresh survey to ascertain the number of people who have given up drinking, which was 1.64 crore, according an earlier estimate.