'No liquor ban in rest of state'
Govt responds to issue of smuggling, illegal brewing in 3 dry districts of Vidarbha
Liquor will not be banned in Maharashtra, the state government has said after the issue of liquor smuggling and illegal brewing in the districts where prohibition is in place was raised in the Assembly on Tuesday.
Currently, production, sales and consumption of alcoholic substances in banned in three neighbouring districts of Vidarbha. Of these, Wardha is under prohibition as a mark of respect to Mahatma Gandhi, who had stayed in the district for a long while. Naxal-affected Gadchiroli was added to the list later, and the BJP government banned liquor in Chandrapur after coming to power in 2014, particularly because a local MLA Sudhir Mungantiwar, who heads finance and forest departments, had been demanding a ban in his home district.
Congress MLA Vijay Wadettiwar called the attention of the government to the failure in controlling illegal trade and smuggling of liquor. He said prohibition had created more problems than ever and wanted a change in the policy so that Chandrapur, where national and international tourists visit a tiger sanctuary there, are allowed to consume alcoholic beverages. He said the policy could be changed on the lines of dry Gujarat where tourists and visitors are not held to the ban. He said spurious liquor was affecting people's health and black market was damaging the economy.
NCP leader Ajit Pawar, Congress MLA Virendra Jagtap and some Shiv Sena legislators, too, joined the debate, asking if prohibition was for real or just a way of making money for the officers of the prohibition department. They asked why officers who had failed to check the menace were not suspended.
Pawar accused the officials of seeking bribes and increasing the amount every time laws were made stricter. Jagtap said the adjoining districts of Yavatmal and Amravati bore the brunt because people from Chandrapur and Wardha cross over to places where liquor is sold legally. Wadettiwar said liquor shops and bars were increasing in the dry districts, thus creating more socio-economic problems.
In response, excise minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule said the ban in Chandrapur would not be lifted, and prohibition would not be enforced in the rest of Maharashtra. He promised to constitute a committee to recommend measures on demands raised by the Opposition. He appealed to members to join hand with the government to form village committees, but Pawar retorted saying that the government cannot force MLAs to do such things because they had other important jobs to do.
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