Thousands of people, arrested in Bihar over the tough prohibition act, will be released in Bihar next month under a new amnesty scheme of the state government. The move -- envisaged by the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar after months of criticism over the thousands of arrest under the Prohibition Act - has been officially approved by the state cabinet and the Centre.
At one point of time there were more than 40,000 people in jail under Prohibition Act. Even now, more than 10,000 people, arrested under this law, are jailed across the state.
The amnesty scheme envisages release for all those not facing charges of serious crimes like murder, rape, dowry death, sedition or terrorism. Good conduct of the prisoners will be the other key factor.
The first batch of undertrials will be released on October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Preference will be given to women and those above the age of 60.
Mr Kumar had raised the amnesty plan before the President and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. After getting a go ahead from the Union Home Ministry, it was brought before state cabinet, which approved it on Thursday.
Many say the amnesty scheme became necessary after it became clear that most of the people behind the bars under Prohibition Act either belong to Scheduled Castes or the extreme backward classes -- both traditional supporters of Mr Kumar's Janata Dal United.
The two sections, who allege excesses by the police, contend that the Prohibition Act has become a mode of abuse of power.
In July, Mr Kumar relaxed certain provisions of the state's tough anti-liquor law, admitting there have been complaints of misuse of its provisions. He said more than one lakh people, mostly poor Dalits, have been arrested under it in the last couple of years, while illicit liquor trade flourished with the connivance of the police and the administration.