High on the Highway – banned or damned?

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Pintu Basak, age 37, father of a 6 year old daughter… The only earning member of the family, will lose his job soon. Sk.Alam, 42, was planning to arrange his only sister’s marriage, now uncertain, and the list is endless. Approximately 10000 people will lose their job, and if you look at the larger picture, approximately 40000 people’s future has turned upside down in West Bengal only, after the Social Authorities decided to put a Ban on Liquor Shops around the State and National Highways.

Definitely a noble and bold step to reduce the accidents across the highway network in the country, but still there are many unanswered questions which needs to be addressed by the authorities.

If we just rewind the time a couple of months, we witnessed Bihar to go dry on liquor, a promise made by the government before election for a social cause, but, what Nitish Kumar’s government didn’t realize that it can get back to them in a form of a tsunami of illicit liquors and a deep fall in state revenue. And in last few months after the Bihar Ban, Bihar has witnessed a all time high in Illicit Liquor sale, followed by the obvious result causing death of 37 plus residents of the state. Experts are already started saying the Bihar Ban can not be full proofed due to it’s geographical position. Bihar is surrounded by West Bengal & Jharkhand in on side, Nepal on the north and Uttar Pradesh on the west, all these states are named for their high consumption ratio of Liquor Sale and easily accessible from most of the bordering districts of Bihar.

In West Bengal, around 40 – 45 % legitimate liquor shops are situated on the Highways, in and around the districts. If this so called measure is implemented, this will not serve the cause the authorities are planning for. In fact, it will come straight on face as a boomerang. The sale of Hooch will rise again, and it will only help the Bootleggers to establish their black market on a full swing.

When asked Mr.  Paltan Saha, Secretary – All Bengal Excise Licensees’ Association, about this new verdict of the authorities “This will only increase the unauthorized sale of liquor, causing lose of legitimate sale to the Authorized License holders and also decrease the Sate Revenue, which is majorly dependent on Excise Duty paid by us. Not only this, if one look at the full picture, he will understand that bans like this will only cause a socio-economical irregularity.” Was all Mr. Saha has to say. He also added, that shifting the legitimate shops 500 meters away cannot be a solution for road accidents, this will only cause more unauthorized consumption, and it also establish the fact that the local authorities are unable to implement the law against Drink & Drive, and that is the reason, authorities are putting this forceful relocation / ban.

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It’s not only the Country Liquor Association, the entire Industry is feeling the same way. Mr. Monoranjan Roy, Chairman of Pincon Spirit Limited, the largest player in Country Liquor segment said “This ban won’t affect us directly, since we are engaged in manufacturing and distribution of the Country Liquor. Because, this ban will only increase the demand.” He further elaborated his statement, “Presently the sale is based on the legitimate license holders, but if this ban is implemented, there will be a rise in the black marketers, and thus rise in illegal consumption.”

Apart from these issues, there is a major point which needs to be addressed with immense caution. There is a huge number of employments involved in these shops, both directly & indirectly. These people will be jobless over night. In a country like ours, where unemployment is one of the most important issue since the independence, it can be catastrophic for the socio-economic mechanism. It is a proven fact across the globe that, more unemployment means higher rate of criminal activities. Therefore, this is the Authorities, who should decide on the fact that whether banning liquor shop around highways to reduce accidents and give a boost to the illegal activities, turning thousands of people unemployed are more viable step towards making this country a better place or to tightened the already existing “Drink & Drive” law with full swing and implement the same with solid on ground activities is more suitable & viable action.

All we can do is to keep faith on the system for a more sensible decisions, and wish those hardworking people that they can keep going to their shops every morning to earn bread for their families, pay school fees of their children and the States keep earning the much needed revenues for the betterment of the society and the country.

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  1. Avatar By Vivek gupta