Congress Promised Prohibition In Chhattisgarh Manifesto; Opposition And Media Now Giving Baghel Reminders
It appears that the Congress government is in a dilemma between keeping a poll promise and a crucial source of State revenue.
Before winning 69 seats in Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh in 2018, the Congress had made many tall promises. One of which was complete in the state. Now, it is facing a lot of criticism for not just abandoning its promise but taking a complete U-turn on it.
In the Congress released by none other than the then AICC president Rahul Gandhi, the party had declared that it will impose complete prohibition in the state, whereas for tribal areas like Bastar and Sarguja, the local village councils shall be empowered to decide upon it.
In almost every rally that Congress State leaders addressed prior to the elections, a complete ban on alcohol was promised.
In fact, the then PCC Chief who is now chief minister, Bhupesh Baghel, had attacked the RSS for failing to direct the BJP government in power then to implement prohibition. On various other forums, he had endorsed the demands of the tribals to implement a liquor ban.
However, once Congress assumed power, he looked the other way. There were no talks on liquor ban except from various Opposition leaders who the CM of the dramatic oath which Congress leaders had sworn with in their hands to ban alcohol completely in the state.
But it appears that the focus of government is more on revenue.
According to a PRS India published in December 2019 titled, 'State of State Finances: 2019-20', the state of Chhattisgarh earned about 22 per cent of its revenue in excise duty as compared to a negligible zero per cent in States with complete prohibition like Bihar and Gujarat.
Dependency of revenue on alcohol is so much that when the national lockdown was implemented in April due to Covid-19, the CM his concern that “from registry to transportation, mines and sale of liquor -- everything has stopped. The states have no revenue, and if things go on like this, we will not be able to pay salaries to the employees".
When ban on liquor sale was lifted after two months, Raipur became one of the cities to consume the most alcohol. To cash in the revenue, the Chhattisgarh government launched an portal for delivery of liquor directly at homes, in complete violation of all poll promises made.
Interestingly, the State government also imposed a special under which there will be an increase of Rs 10 per bottle for local liquor and a 10 per cent increase in the retail rate of all types of foreign liquor (spirit/malt).
And now, when the whole country is moving towards 'Unlock in phases, the online liquor delivery is still on. All you need is your Aadhaar and phone number to and alcohol will be delivered to your house.
Meanwhile, various local newspapers are raising the question of lack of regulations and illegal liquor sale at many places.
More worryingly, some children reportedly turned out to be ultimate consumers of alcohol in the state. The momentum for complete prohibition in the State has thus begun to gather pace.
The PM was hauled over coals for his ’15 lakh remark’ in which he had not even made any promise but had merely suggested the volume of money. Why should the same standards not be applied for the State Congress government which had not only made prohibition part of its election campaign but also its manifesto, a written commitment?
Isn't it immoral to promise one thing for the sake of winning elections and completely reverse the stand once elected to power? If the State government believes it cannot fulfil the promise owing to economic limitations, shouldn't the Chief Minister at least offer an apology for failing to deliver one of his important poll promises?
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