By Our Staff Reporter
IMPHAL, Sep 21 : Reacting sharply to the nod given by the Cabinet to lift prohibition partially in the State, the Coalition against Drugs and Alcohol (CADA) has asked the State Government to revoke the decision immediately.
Speaking to media persons at Palace Compound today, CADA secretary general Geetchandra Mangang said that the decision taken by the Cabinet will only make the War on Drugs campaign of the State hollow as the State's drug policy covers liquor too.
He asked whether the Government lifted the prohibition under the influence of some business tycoon so that the latter could pursue their works freely.
"The reason given by the State that legalising liquor would provide extra revenue for the State is not convincing," Geetchandra added.
Maintaining that drug misuse and alcoholism are one of the root causes of the social ills besieging the State, he asserted that CADA will carry out a series of agitations along with the like minded groups until the Government revokes the Cabinet decision.
Claiming that 80 per cent of the State's populace uses at least one form of intoxicant while 37.5 of men and 0.9 per cent of women aged 15 and above here drink alcohol as per the 2019-20 report of National Family Health Survey (NFHS), he maintained that Manipur also ranked 5th among the States and Union Territories in terms of alcohol consumption as per the report.
Geetchandra further maintained that alcoholism is also the leading cause of domestic violence.
Recalling that mothers of the State have been launching a strong movement to stop sale and consumption of alcohol since the 1970s while CADA has been supporting the movement to save lives, he accused the successive Governments of not implementing the Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act, since its inception in 1991, properly.
Saying that proposals were brought up during the tenure of former Chief Minister O Ibobi and in the previous terms of Chief Minister N Biren to legalise liquor but the same was cancelled due to strong opposition by CADA and the people of Manipur, he asserted that the Cabinet giving a green signal to legalise brewing and selling of liquor was very unfortunate.
Coming out strongly against the statement given by Minister Letpao Haokip that liquor is widely brewed and consumed in the State despite the ban, Geetchandra reasoned that the responsibilities to implement the Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act 1991 effectively lies only with the Government.
"The statement given by Letpao Haokip only reveals that the incumbent Government is not competent enough to prohibit the sale and brewing of liqour," he said and asked if the Government will legalise corruption, drug and prostitution as they couldn't prohibit it.
Geetchandra went on to ask if the people will become healthy by consuming the finest alcohol.
"Is the Government thinking only about revenue collection without putting much thought to the social problems caused by alcoholism and are there no other sources to earn revenue from," he asked and questioned whether revenue collection is more important than the wellbeing of the people.
There is no guarantee that the ambitious plan of the Government to export locally brewed liquor would succeed as there are many projects which were implemented to improve the socioeconomic conditions of the State but failed to live up to expectation such as Loktak Project, he pointed out.
Geetchandra also gave his response to the claim that the liquor being brewed locally such as at Andro, Sekmai and others would not be allowed to sell in Manipur by arguing that liquor which are meant for defence personnel only are widely available in the market.
"Can the Government guarantee that the local liquor which is to be brewed for export purposes only will not be leaked in the local market," he asked.
It is also a misconception that lifting the prohibition on liquor is necessary to tap the tourism potential of the State, Geetchandra opined and added that foreign tourists can obtain a permit from the Commissioner of Excise to buy 750 ml of liquor as per Section 20 of Manipur Liquor Prohibition Rules 1994.
Moreover, the arable land in Manipur is only 1.95 lakh hectare and it is not sufficient to meet the local demand for rice and as such rice has been procured from other States, Geetchandra said and asked if brewing liquor is more important than feeding the people.
The legislation on liquor might trigger another Nupi Lan and Chaklam Khongchat, he warned.
Asking why the State Government is allowing commercialisation of liquor by those who brew liquor as customary and traditional practise, he maintained that CADA will never accept any encouragement which endangers the State.
He further asked if the Government is not aware of the many liquor bars being set up in different parts of the State.
Maintaining that the State Government hasn't produced any white paper on the benefits of legalising liquor as demanded by CADA till date, he said that the Government must let the people know of the pros and cons of legalising liquor.
Further stating that the decision taken by the Cabinet hastily will not bring any good to the society, he urged the State Government to instead focus on strengthening the Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act 1991 and save lives.