Liquor flows again in Manipur: Government lifts ban after 30 years amidst protests

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Imphal, Dec 07, 2023, IANS

Amidst strong protests by anti-liquor organisations, the Manipur government on Thursday issued a notification withdrawing prohibition from 11 district headquarters, the greater Imphal areas, tourist locations, and registered hotel establishments with not less than 20 lodging rooms.

Officials on Thursday said that the notification was issued as part of the state government’s decision to legalize liquor in the state.

Amidst the seven-month-long ongoing ethnic violence, the Manipur cabinet on Monday decided to legalize liquor in the state and amend the Manipur Excise Rules after the state Finance Department proposed to legalize production, manufacture, possession, export and import, transport, purchase, sale and consumption of liquor.

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According to officials with the legalization of the sale and consumption of liquor, the state government is expecting annual revenue of around Rs 600-700 crore.

The government's decision to legalize the sale and consumption of liquor in the state had drawn sharp reactions from anti-liquor organisations, including the Coalition Against Drugs and Alcohol (CADA) and All Manipur Women’s Social Reformation and Development Samaj (Nupi Samaj).

The Manipur government had enacted the Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act in 1991 but partially lifted the prohibition last year and also exempted the restriction for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities for brewing liquor during their traditional activities and customary practices.

While the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC), the apex body of the Indian alcoholic beverages industry, has welcomed the Manipur government’s move to lift the ban on liquor, Nupi Samaj President Th Ramani said that while the people of Manipur are mourning the loss of many lives due to the ongoing ethnic riot, the state government is giving its attention about the production of liquor.

Last year the Manipur government issued a public notice seeking views on the state government’s decision for partial lift of prohibition from the state from all civil society organisations, NGOs, and individuals.

In October last year, Chief Minister N. Biren Singh had said that the government would come up with a white paper on liquor legalisation in the state. The state cabinet had earlier decided to lift the three-decade-old prohibition on liquor consumption partially.

Manipur became a dry state in 1991 following pressure from different groups. In the 1980s, women vigilantes were posted in the street to prevent men from alcoholism and substance abuse. Even militant outfits have banned sale and consumption of liquor.

The Manipur Peoples Party led government headed by Chief Minister R.K. Ranbir Singh passed the Liquor Prohibition Act of 1991 and officially declared Manipur a “dry state” with the exemption granted to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities to brew liquor for traditional purposes.

Liquor was sold in the grey market and foreign liquor was smuggled into Manipur from Myanmar.

In 2002, the then Congress government headed by Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh lifted prohibition in the five hill districts -- Chandel, Churachandpur, Senapati, Tamenglong and Ukhrul districts. In the run up to Assembly polls last year, Biren Singh had said the state government would introduce Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) shops if the BJP returns to power.

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