Patna: Alcohol will be banned in Bihar from April 1 next year, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced today, making good on a promise he had made to a group of angry women at an event months ago.
"In 1977-78 we tried to impose prohibition but it was not effective. But I feel women are suffering more than others (because of alcohol abuse)... I have instructed my officials to start working towards this and implement this from the next financial year," Mr Kumar said at a function.
This is the first major announcement by Mr Kumar since he was sworn in as Chief Minister for the fifth time last week after a spectacular election victory.
It is not clear whether the ban will be restricted to country liquor or will include all alcohol.
In July, months before the state polls, Mr Kumar had faced protests at a function from women, who shouted complaints about country liquor addiction in villages. The Chief Minister had then assured them that if he returned to power, he would ban alcohol. "These women are correct about alcohol. If I come to power, I will have it stopped," he had said.
The Bihar government earned nearly Rs. 3,500 crore last year through taxes on the sale of alcohol, sources say. It is not known how the government plans to make up for this loss of revenue.
After Nitish Kumar's announcement, there were comments on social media about the "Gujarat model" in Bihar. Prohibition has been in place in Gujarat since 1960. Alcohol is also banned in Nagaland, Manipur and Lakshwadeep.
Last year, the Congress-led government in Kerala announced that it will be totally alcohol-free within 10 years. Hundreds of bars were forced to shut down across the state, and alcohol is now served only in five-star hotels. After protests, bars were recently allowed to sell beer and wine.