Monday, December 5, 2022

Perennial debate

Several colonies and villages in Dimapur and Chümoukedima districts have raised their voices against possession, consumption or sale of alcohol in line with the Nagaland Total Liquor Prohibition Act 1989. Strong resolutions have been passed by some of the colonies/villages such as banishment from the colonies/villages of those involved with their families and seizure of their pattas (land deed approved by the government) etc. It is perhaps for the first time that colonies/villages have taken a big step towards strengthening the enforcement of the NLTP Act. It of course remains to be seen whether this small yet significant step will be able to make an impact to stop the flow and consumption of liquor. These come after the state government, church bodies and civil society organizations have taken cognizance of the failure of the NLTP Act and decided to do something about it. Facts clearly show that more than 30 years of enforcing the Act has not made Nagaland any drier and on the contrary, it appears that consumption of alcohol has risen especially among the younger lot. Advocates of total ban on liquor sale and consumption have been accusing the state government of not doing enough to enforce the Act. Destroying seized IMFL and police registering case against sellers and suppliers of IMFL has not contributed anything worthwhile in achieving the aim and objective of the NLTP Act. Out of 28 States and eight union territories in India only seven states namely Bihar, Gujarat, Tripura, Lakshadweep, Mizoram and Nagaland have enforced prohibition, whereas in Manipur its is partially banned partially. The failure of the Act has also prompted several organisations such as Naga Tribal Union Chümoukedima Town (NTUCT) to urge upon the government to decide on whether to lift or not to lift the NTLP Act. The union demanded that if the Act is not to be lifted then there should be effective measures (more manpower and facilities) including more teeth to enforce the Act. However, if it was to be lifted then the government should pass an amendment to ensure that spurious and deadly alcohol is prevented from being sold and consumed. In other states there are strict laws governing sale of alcohol as well as dealing with drunken behaviour in public. Breathalyser tests are mandatory for drivers. Sale and consumption of spurious alcohol is common where prohibition act is prevalent and this has invited the worst tragedies resulting in loss of lives of many people. The state loses huge amount of revenue to Assam where consumers from Nagaland go to buy or consume alcohol. Enforcement of the Act means spending more money for recruitment of personnel and equipments. The state government was mulling with the idea of partially lifting the act on November 21,2021 and formed a committee headed by the state chief secretary to work out the modalities and submit a report within a month. The committee met in February this year and since then, nothing has been heard. Whether some view the Act from spiritual perspective or revenue angle or health angle; it calls for an informed and wide consultation with public and CSOs but ultimately, it rests with an individual choice.

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