Rajat Sharma

A minister’s campaign against alcohol and drug addiction

AKBAs the death toll in Bihar hooch tragedy reached 60 on Friday, there was pandemonium again inside the Assembly, with members from both sides trading charges and counter charges. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said, “no mercy will be shown to people who consume liquor. We must ask people not to drink alcohol.”

On Friday, Nitish Kumar repeated his remark “Piyoge, toh maroge”(you will die if you drink liquor) and took a jibe at BJP over the Morbi bridge collapse incident in Gujarat. He said, “even though so many people died in Morbi, that news made it to the newspapers just for a day”. He claimed that the number of deaths due to spurious liquor in Bihar is on the lower side compared to Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

The main opposition BJP said, “blood is already on the hands of Nitish Kumar directly”. The opposition leaders alleged that spurious liquor in the form of spirit that was seized and lying in a police station was sold to people to consume. BJP MP Sushil Kumar Singh described spurious liquor deaths in Bihar as “mass murder” and held the state government responsible.

The death of 59 people in Bihar due to spurious liquor is a serious tragedy. The victims were poor, uneducated, and their families are now rudderless. I agree, the victims made a mistake by drinking poisonous liquor. They lost their lives because of this, but the state government cannot wash off its hands by leaving these poor families in the lurch. On top of it, the chief minister, while rejecting demands to pay ex-gratia, rubs salt into the wounds by saying “piyoge toh maroge”. This is an insensitive remark. The state government’s responsibility does not end with enacting prohibition law.

Nitish Kumar’s claim that prohibition is being enforced strictly flies in the face of statistics. Official figures show that liquor is flowing like river in Bihar. In the last six years of prohibition, two crore nine lakh 79 thousand litres of liquor was seized. Think about the magnitude of supply sources. On an average, nearly 10,000 litres of alcohol was seized daily. Nearly six lakh people were sent to jail either for consuming alcohol or for keeping a bottle or a half of alcohol. More than 1,000 people have died of spurious liquor.

Till now, four lakh cases have been filed, but only about 4,000 cases have been disposed of. Even the Supreme Court has commented that most of the time of lower courts in Bihar is spent in hearing bail petitions in prohibition cases. Think about the huge pressure that has been created, both on the executive and the judiciary, but no fruitful results have come out till now. Consumption of alcohol is on the rise, and people are dying of spurious liquor. The only difference is that, earlier cheap country liquor was being sold from government shops at Rs 20 a pouch, and now people are paying Rs 100 for a pouch of spurious liquor.

It is nobody’s case that consumption of alcohol is good for health. Nobody is arguing that prohibition is wrong. But while enforcing a law, the state government should have checked whether it has a system in place to enforce that law. The consequences of enforcing such a law should have been assessed.

In the vocal slugfest that is going on in Bihar, I would advise people to take a cue from Kaushal Kishore, Union Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs. Kaushal Kishore is the BJP MP from Mohanlalganj, UP. Two years ago, he lost his 28-year-old son Akash on October 19, 2020 when his liver stopped functioning due to excessive alcohol consumption. Kaushal and his MLA wife Jaya Devi tried their best to save their son’s life, but failed. Both the parents have now launched a nationwide campaign against alcohol and drugs.

Says Kaushal Kishore, “I lost my son to alcohol two years ago. After that I pledged to make India drugs free. So far, 18 lakh people have pledged not to consume alcohol or drugs and nearly 10,000 people have already stopped consuming alcohol. Poison kills instantly, but excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs becomes a slow poison that ultimately kills. We have to protect the young generation from being addicted to liquor or drugs. We have launched our campaign ‘Hindustaniyon, Nasha Chhodo” during the Azadi Ka Armit Mahotsav”.

Kaushal Kishore addresses people and recalls the trauma that he and his wife went through when they found that their son was addicted to alcohol. They have a daughter-in-law and a four-year-old grandson to look after. They tell people to keep close watch on the activities of their children and their friends. They must tell their children about the harm caused by alcohol addiction.

Kaushal Kishore also tells parents about another mistake that he committed. He says, he made a mistake by marrying off his son even when he knew he was addicted to alcohol. “Do not marry off your sons until and unless they leave alcohol or drugs. It does not matter even if the family is rich. If he is addicted, parents of girls must avoid marrying off their daughters to such youths.”

I would like to praise Kaushal Kishore and his wife Jaya Devi for launching this anti-addiction campaign. It is not easy for a couple to share details about their personal life to people while trying to create social awareness. To narrate the follies of their son in the presence of people needs courage. Kaushal Kishore now tells people not to waste time if they find that their son is addicted.

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