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Why do some Indian states ban alcohol and its impacts?

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation


Source: IE

Direction: The article highlights the impact of the liquor ban in India against the backdrop of the recent hooch tragedy in Bihar.

 Context: The official death toll from the latest hooch tragedy in “dry” Bihar has mounted to 38.


  • The state’s prohibition policy is accused to have resulted in a booming underground economy where illicit alcohol is prepared and sold.
  • Prohibition is a Gandhian principle under the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP).


The alcohol ban in India:

The Indian constitution views on alcohol:

  • Article 47: The State shall make every effort to ban the consumption of intoxicating drinks and substances that are injurious to health.
  • Though not legally enforceable, DPSPs set goals for the state so that citizens can lead a good life. Thus, alcohol is seen by the Constitution as an undesirable evil that needs to be regulated.
  • 7th Schedule of the Constitution puts alcohol on the state liste., state legislatures have the right and responsibility to draft laws regarding it.
  • Hence, alcohol regulations vary from state to state, spanning the entire range from prohibition to private sale.
  • Currently, there are five states (Bihar, Gujarat, Lakshadweep, Nagaland, and Mizoram) with total prohibition and some more with partial prohibition.


Case of Bihar:

  • Both the sale and consumption of liquor were completely banned by the state government in 2016, to keep a promise made to the women of Bihar ahead of the Assembly polls.
  • Severe punishments were imposed on those found to be flouting the ban, including heavy fines and imprisonment.
  • Earlier this year, the Bihar government amended its prohibition laws to reduce punishment for first-time “drinkers” and replaced imprisonment with a fine.
  • This was done to free up Bihar’s already overcrowded jails and to direct the government’s attention away from consumers and toward sellers and distributors of liquor.


Why haven’t all states banned alcohol?

  • Liquor revenues are not easy to ignore.
  • For instance, in Maharashtra, state liquor revenues amounted to Rs 11,000 crore in April 2020 (during lockdown), compared with Rs 17,000 crore in March.


Effects of prohibition:

  • A women’s right as there is evidence linking alcohol with domestic abuse.
  • Case of Bihar: Crimes against women have clearly declined both in terms of rate (per 100,000 female population) and incidence (absolute numbers).
  • Boosts underground market.
  • Strengthening organised crime groups (or mafias).
  • Spurious liquor disproportionately affects poorer sections.
  • Case of Bihar: A spike in substance (liquor) abuse after the ban.


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Q. Do you think that total prohibition on the sale and consumption of alcohol is a wise policy move? State your opinion. (250 words)