Assam Transport and Excise Minister Parimal Suklabaidya said he would not mind losing his Ministry to campaign against the ills of drinking

Handling two Ministries with contrasting goals may come at a price for an Assam Minister.
As an Excise Minister, Parimal Suklabaidya seeks to increase the State’s revenue from liquor sales every year. His responsibility as the Transport Minister includes checking drunk driving, one of the major causes of deaths in road accidents in Assam.

He is in charge of the Fisheries Ministry too. And fish, fried or roasted, is a popular snack at drinking sessions in the State.

“Even if it means losing my Ministry, I will say drinking liquor is not good for health. It can be fatal too, if one drinks and drives a car or rides a two-wheeler,” Mr. Suklabaidya said during a road campaign in north-central Assam’s Udalguri district on Tuesday.

30-day tour to promote safe driving

More than a week ago, the Minister embarked upon a 30-day tour across Assam on a 350-cc motorcycle to promote safe driving after the State’s Transport Department came out with a study that revealed road accidents claim an average of 2,900 lives annually.

A total of 2,606 people died in 6,001 cases of accidents recorded between January and October this year. The figures for 2022 and 2021 were 2,994 deaths in 7,023 cases and 3,030 deaths in 7,404 cases respectively.

The data did not specify how many people died due to drunk driving but “the number is significant”, a Transport Department official said.

“Sale of liquor is a major source of revenue for the State but it does not certify drinking as a good habit. People can indulge but driving after consuming liquor cannot be justified,” Mr. Suklabaidya said.

The State government earned ₹22.05 crore from liquor sales during the three-day Durga Puja (October) in Guwahati alone. The city yielded a revenue of ₹17 crore during the festival in 2022.

‘Path Suraksha Jan Andolan’

Mr. Suklabaidya launched the ‘Path Suraksha Jan Andolan’ on the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims on November 19. He will cover all 126 Assembly constituencies in the State in a bid to turn the campaign into a mass movement.

“The reasons behind road accidents are riding without wearing a helmet, over-speeding, rash driving, talking on mobile phone while driving and drinking and driving. A bit of awareness and discipline on the part of riders and drivers can lead to a drop in the accident rate,” he said.

The Minister dismissed views that he disguised the BJP’s campaign for the 2024 Lok Sabha election as a road safety drive. “This is about saving lives, not seeking votes,” he said.

(the above news was originally posted on The Hindu)