AIZAWL, MARCH 11: Drinkers in Aizawl are swamping liquor shops in the city to make the best use of the last few weeks before the shops are closed down, at least for the next 5 years.
The Zoramthanga Government, that is hell-bent on bringing back the Prohibition in order to appease the influential churches, is now all set to legislate a law to ban liquor. The Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Zoramthanga on Friday approved the Mizoram Liquor Prohibition Bill, 2019, an official said.
The Mizo National Front (MNF) Government was so enthusiastic in banning liquor that it had attempted to declare prolonged dry days even before a law was passed in the Assembly. However, after the liquor vendors and bonded warehouse owners sued the Government in the court, wine shops were re-opened from the first week of February.
Liquor card issued by the State Excise & Narcotics department that allotted 6 bottles of hard drinks for a card holder is no longer necessary to buy booze from the wine shops. Even though Excise policemen are still stationed in the wine shops, they are no longer checking how much liquor a consumer buys.
Capitalising on this opportunity, drinkers are buying liquor not in terms of bottles but in terms of case (a case of liquor contains 12 bottles). “It looks like they are stocking for the dry spell,” joked a wine shop attendant.
The new law would replace the Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control) Act, 2014 brought in by the then Congress Government to regulate sale of alcohol in a move which partially lifted the 18-year total prohibition in the State. The earlier prohibition law was called Mizoram Liqour Total Prohibition Act, 1995.
“Prohibition is enough. There is no need to add the word ‘total’,” Excise & Narcotics Minister Dr Beichhua said.
According to a Minister in the Cabinet, the new law would propose exemptions for certain “special categories” including consumption of alcohol on advice of a medical practitioner, consumption by servicemen and ex-servicemen and consumption of low alcohol content drinks in Christian ceremonies. However, the law would prohibit sale of alcohol in the State. “There will be no wine shops,” the Minister said.
After coming to power, the MNF Government in an interim measure had announced a long dry spell starting December 21 which was extended to March. The order was later quashed by the Aizawl Bench of the Gauhati High Court in January.
Nagaland and Manipur are two other Northeastern States where prohibition is in force. (Courtesy: AT)