Nitish expresses shock over UP hooch tragedy, pitches for prohibition

ALLAHABAD: Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar expressed shock over the hooch tragedy in Etah, which has so far claimed over 20 lives, and said Uttar Pradesh ought to have a ban on sale and consumption of liquor like his state.

Prohibition came into force in Bihar earlier this year in keeping with an electoral promise Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) had made to the people, especially women. “I felt shock and grief when I read the news about Etah in the newspapers this morning. The tragedy is yet another reminder of the various evils that have their roots in the consumption of liquor.

“I wish the state government here had taken a cue from the experiment in neighboring Bihar where we have banned sale and consumption of liquor,” Kumar, who is also the JD(U) president, said at a rally in Phulpur, about 50 km from the city.

“We had promised the people of Bihar, especially women, that we will prohibit sale and consumption of alcohol if our party came to power. We kept the promise and the state is certain to reap the benefits. UP too can do the same. After all, it is not just Bihar which has opted for prohibition. Tamil Nadu has banned liquor only recently and Kerala may be heading in the same direction”, he said.

The toll in the spurious liquor tragedy in Etah has climbed to 24, while the main accused was arrested today and 11 officials from excise department and police have been suspended. Kumar said, “Prohibition has been in place in Gujarat ever since the state came into being. I would urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who hails from that state, to consider ways and means of eradicating this social evil from the country.”

The JD(U) president, who is looking at making inroads in Uttar Pradesh, which is headed for a multi-cornered contest in the Assembly elections, also spoke extensively about measures taken by him, like 50 per cent reservation for women in local bodies and free uniforms and bicycles to school-going girls. Support of women is widely believed to have helped him win a third term in office despite having suffered a huge setback in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Kumar, whose party is hoping to bag a sizeable chunk of the votes of the Kurmi caste – to which he belongs – took a dig at the recent induction of Apna Dal MP Anupriya Patel in the Union Council of Ministers.

“As a local MLA, she must have played an important role in PM Modi’s victory from Varanasi. But it took more than two years for recognition to come her way. I wonder whether it had something to do with the fact that a few days before the cabinet expansion, our party had organised a rally in Mirzapur, which she currently represents in the Lok Sabha”, Kumar said.

The Bihar chief minister’s address was preceded by speeches of party colleagues like former JD(U) president Sharad Yadav and K C Tyagi.