What we don’t understand about prohibition in Bihar: It’s popular

Source: The post is based on an article “What we don’t understand about prohibition in Bihar: It’s popular” published in The Indian Express on 23rd December 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Governance

Relevance: alcohol ban in Bihar and issues with it

News: The article discusses the effect of banning alcohol in Bihar and measures to prevent hooch related deaths.

How has been the condition of Bihar after banning alcohol?

Alcohol in Bihar was banned in the year 2016. This improved the condition as men no longer stayed outside late nights to drink. Domestic violence reduced and women were happy, especially those from the low strata of the society.

However, in later years the scenario changed. Liquors were made available through illegal means and low-quality liquor started coming into the market.

This again worried the government and it started to raid and confiscate liquor. The demands for substitutes for alcohol increased and drug addiction among youth became a real problem.

What has been the impact of alcohol ban on Bihar?

Violence: Domestic violence in Bihar fell by 37 percent between 2016 and 2020.

Revenue loss: Bihar lost a significant amount of revenue from taxation of alcohol. The revenues from alcohol for 2014-15 was about 15 per cent of total tax revenues and 1 percent of the state’s GDP. However, it is not much of concern as 75 percent of Bihar’s revenues are generated via central taxes or grants from the Centre.

Less crowding jails: Bihar’s jails are not overflowing. This is because conviction rates under the prohibition law are very low.

Therefore, there has been a mixed response in banning alcohol. Moreover, no policy can claim success if it leads to preventable calamities, like people recently lost lives due to the consumption of hooch.

What can be the course of action for Bihar?

One of the ways is to make alcohol available but levy high taxes on it. This will ensure that alcohol is legal and demand is reduced for illegal liquor.

Further, a high tax would also lead to low consumption, increase revenues, refocus police attention and bring down hooch-related deaths. However, determining the optimal tax rates would be a concern.

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