Illicit Liquor Tragedy in Bihar

The Communist Party of India (ML) has asked the Bihar government to conduct a high level prove into the liquor tragedy happened last week in Saran killing more than 70 people. The party said that there are reports of liquor mafia in the state are being protected by vested political interests led by RSS and BJP. Such political and administrative protection should be exposed and brought to justice. The large number of deaths due to illicit liquor was reported earlier from BJP ruled states like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, now in Bihar we are facing similar kind of political patronage of the mafia leading to increased number of deaths in such incidents.

More than seventy people have died due to poisonous hooch in Saran and the number is increasing along with the spread which has expanded up to parts of Siwan district. A CPIML team of leaders including legislators Virendra Pd. Gupta and Manoj Manzil, ex-MLA Amarnath Yadav and Saran district secretary Sabha Rai visited the affected areas only to find shrieking silence in many households who have lost their kin forever. Most of the dead people are from very poor and working class background. This tragedy is being considered the biggest after the mid-day meal food poisoning tragedy occurred in same district that killed 23 kids in a school in July 2018, in which the school Principal was found guilty but her husband who supplied the contaminated cooking oil was let free by the court on ‘lack of evidence’.

The CPIML team visited many villages including Mashrakh and met family members of deceased Chandrama Ram, Brajesh Yadav, Noor Ansari, Khushi and others. They found that a whole system of illicit liquor supply is working under the suface well protected by the people in administration and the local thana. And this is true for all districts of Bihar to the extent that vested political interests in the administration use these antisocials against the democratic forces and common masses which was explicitly seen in Ujiarpur district in the month of September-October when local thana used such goons to attack on a CPIML protest held against an incident of gang rape and murder.

CPIML has been asking since long to act against the liquor mafia and its political patrons but the inability of the Bihar government to act effectively has sadly led to this ghastly incident which is nothing less than a perpetrated massacre. The antiliquor legislation enacted in Bihar in 2016 was meant to provide relief from the adverse social ramifications of the liquor menace, but on the contrary, this is adding to another dimension of liquor deaths and lakhs of poor people being sent behind bars while the suppliers of spurious liquor and their protectors are doing business as usual. And that’s a pathetic state of affairs.

The BJP has been ruling Bihar for the last seventeen years till a few months ago when it was ousted and Mahagathbandhan took over. The Bihar BJP leaders now issuing statements on this tragedy are exposing its own hypocrisy on this subject. Earlier many BJP leaders were allegedly implicated for their involvement in illegal liquor trade. The illicit liquor was seized from the premises of a school run by Ex-minister Ramsurat Rai and large numbers of liquor bottles were seized from a relative of leader of opposition in Bihar Assembly Vijay Sinha. This is being suspected that the killer liquor in Saran incident was supplied from the Yogi ruled Uttar Pradesh! While the prohibition has been a failed policy so far in Bihar, the BJP cannot exclude itself from taking the responsibility under whose rule dozens of illicit liquor death incidents had taken place.

Another worrying aspect is the use of prohibition as a weapon by police and administration to oppress dalits and poor in Bihar. One such incident occurred in Masaurhi district on 9 December. The police let loose a reign of terror in Hansadih village on the houses of Musahar, Nat, Dom and other backward caste people where barbarity crossed all boundaries with women stripped and beaten up badly. A 55 year old woman Sonvan Devi died in police beatings. This was certainly not intended when the prohibition law was brought into force. To criminalise the very people in the name of whose welfare a law was enacted could never be the intention. What is intended was to help them through de-addiction centres, proper rehabilitation, effective social reform campaigns and a thorough transformation of their miserable material conditions to effect a real change. This is actually never done. Now the onus is on Mahagathbandhan government to work in this direction.

CPIML has demanded from the government to adopt a more sensitive approach and immediately release funds for the compensation and rehabilitation for the families of those killed as well as proper medical treatment of those fell sick. CPIML also asks for the proper education etc of the children of the affected people through governmental arrangement. The party demanded a high level probe into the nexus of liquor mafia-politicians-administration in order to hold them responsible for this tragedy so that they would never be repeated.

CPIML held statewide protests on 19 December in Bihar on these demands which were attended by thousands of people in all districts. The CPIML strongly condemned the insensitive attitude of Bihar CM and administration with regard to providing compensation to the victim families through these protests.

Bihar Secretary and party’s politburo member Kunal led a demonstration in Patna where he said that CPIML supported a prohibition policy in which there could never be any scope of holding poor people as criminals for drinking a glass of wine. Instead, this is a social menace and must be treated on an entirely different paradigm with full compassion. He reiterated for the compensation at least to the tune of Rs. 10 lakhs for the affected. Earlier the government had given compensation in a similar incident in Khajurbani in Gopalganj district.

Gopal Ravidas MLA from Paliganj addressed the protesters and strongly condemned police atrocities perpetrated in Hansidih in Masaurhi which led to the death of Sonvan Devi on 9 December. He said that this has become a norm to oppress the poor in the name of prohibition and demanded a stop to the police harassment and atrocities. Earlier there have also been many incidents of custodial deaths by police in similar cases.

Party’s legislature group leader Mahboob Alam along with a group of CPIML MLAs met with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar on 19 December to press for the demands CPIML has raised in the aftermath of this incident. The CPIML legislators asked CM Nitish Kumar to invoke the clause of the prohibition law that provisions for seize of properties of liquor mafia and provides compensation to the victim families. Unless the actual perpetrators, their masterminds and protectors are not brought to justice, the actual purpose of prohibition cannot be achieved. CPIML has also demanded to constitute coordination committees at various levels by including representatives of political parties and social organisations for a campaign against liquor and that every block should have a de-addiction centre.

Government Must Take Responsibility


Government Must Ensure a High Level Probe