India’s third-largest state is banning the sale of home-made alcohol from April 1 and limiting sales of beer, wine and liquor to state-run stores.
“It will be strongly implemented,” Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar, said Sunday. He said his move to bar “local and masala liquor” was a first step to banning all alcohol in the state.
Biharis spend just over 15 rupees (22 cents) a month on alcoholic beverages –lower than the national average of 20.26 rupees –according to the National Sample Survey, conducted by the federal government, between July 2011 and June 2012.
But they shell out the highest amount after Andhra Pradesh and Kerala on what is known as toddy – a local spirit made from palm sap. Biharis spend 3.54 rupees on toddy each month, compared with 12.10 rupees in Andhra Pradesh and 7.59 rupees in Kerala.
That’s the stuff Mr. Kumar has in his sights.
India has a recurring problem with bootleg or adulterated liquor sickening or killing people who drink it. In June, at least 95 people died after drinking tainted, illegal liquor in Mumbai.
A similar incident in the eastern city of Kolkata in September claimed at least 12 lives and put 50 others in the hospital.
Mr. Kumar didn’t give a time frame for instituting a total alcohol ban.
In a research report, Nomura said the impact of a ban on the alcohol industry would be limited because a lot of the liquor sold in Bihar is illicit. Additionally, companies tend to sell inexpensive products in the state, which accounts for a small portion of their revenue.
In August last year, Kerala’s government banned the sale of hard liquor such as spirits in an effort to rein in the state’s drinkers. Wine, beer and toddy, were exempt from the prohibition measures. Bar owners in Kerala are challenging the ban in the Supreme Court of India.
Bihar makes 40 billion rupees in taxes on the sale of alcohol each year, Mr. Kumar says but adds that its consumption is causing social problems, family arguments and that the money used to buy alcohol would be better spent on children’s education and nutrition.
The other substance that has Biharis’ wallets and palates most hooked is leaf tobacco. They spent more on this than any other state according to the National Sample Survey, which looked at consumer spending. On average, Biharis spent 13.73 rupees per person on leaf tobacco in 30 days between 2011 and 2012.
India banned smoking in public places in 2008, fining people for lighting up in hotels, restaurants, schools, pubs or discotheques, hospitals, airports and bus stops, among other areas.
Bihar banned sales of some types of tobacco, including snuff, pipe tobacco and cheroots, for one year in November 2014. The state continued to allow the sale cigarettes and khaini, which contains chewing tobacco, as well as bidis, made from tobacco rolled in a leaf.