Repeal NLTP Act in Dimapur: DUCCF demands

DUCCF members after submitting the memorandum to the Nagaland Governor calling for repeal of the NLTP Act from Dimapur.

DUCCF members after submitting the memorandum to the Nagaland Governor calling for repeal of the NLTP Act from Dimapur.

DIMAPUR, DECEMBER 9 (MExN): The Dimapur Urban Council Chairmen Federation (DUCCF) has submitted a memorandum to the Nagaland Government demanding repeal of the Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition (NLTP) Act from Dimapur district.  The memo is in continuation to the earlier representation submitted by Civil Society Organisations of Dimapur to the Governor demanding the same.

The DUCCF, consisting of 97 colonies and 23 wards under urban areas of Dimapur, informed that it has carried out research with a team of professionals from various backgrounds on non implementation of the NLTP Act, particularly in and around Dimapur district, and its adverse impact upon citizens of Nagaland.

The DUCCF said that t the Act has “failed on all counts” and the public have become victims and not beneficiaries (as originally envisaged). Firstly, it said that the act denies citizens’ freedom of choice, and termed it akin to “fanatical organizations calling for ban on celebration of Valentine’s Day, love Jihad or dictating what to eat, dress or speak.” 

Further, it said that complete prohibition on liquor consumption even in confined, restricted, and protected spaces such as one’s own house violates one’s privacy. “By restricting citizens from drinking what they want, the State curtails their right to privacy, embedded in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Therefore prohibition is an unreasonable restriction,” the forum said. 

It further cited the failure of prohibition in the USA, and said that the high demand from the populace encouraged illegal means to make liquor available to the public, even among the law and order mechanism and politicians. “Prohibition allowed Mafia families to make fortunes,” it stated. 

Nagaland, it stated, is “facing the exact same situation the US had faced during the prohibition years, albeit with a local twist.”

The DUCCF said that with a population of 3,78,811 (2011 Census), “Dimapur has more than a thousand bootleggers operating through illegal bars, hotels, resorts, restaurants, dhabas, roadside chips & mineral water bottle shops, etc. translating to approximately 1 outlet per 380 people.” In a licensed environment, it reasoned that “there may hardly be a fraction of the above number of shops selling over-the-counter alcohol.” Further, it claimed that this illegal business generates revenue of Rs 15 Cr a month. 

The forum also claimed that illegal/bootlegged liquor flowing into Nagaland from neighboring states “has been confirmed by the Health Department to be generally spurious and more harmful than regular IMFL.”

It informed that during the NLTP consultative meet on February 24, 2022 with CSOs, student organizations and Churches, the Excise Department “admitted its failure to enforce prohibition mainly due to the state imposed legislation was devoid of people’s support/movement, ill-equipped/understaffed personnel’s inability to counter highly organized and motivated liquor barons, bootleggers and syndicate business criminals linked with armed factions besides top government officials.”

In addition, the forum stated that “promiscuity, prostitution and other social evils are some of the many by-products in this environment where the church and NGOs need to take a more proactive approach to ameliorate the present crisis.” 

Meanwhile, it observed that use of locally brewed alcohol has been a traditional practice, especially during festivals, as showcased in the Hornbill Festival. The DUCCF said it is important to know the difference between alcoholism, alcohol dependency, and social drinking, and understanding that most people drink excessively due to mental health disorders can go a long way in rehabilitation of alcoholics.

“This is the area where the CSOs and churches can play a pivotal role in reversing the adverse effects of alcohol use disorder. Moral policing is clearly not going to help by any stretch of the imagination,” it advised. 

It questioned whether there exists any data on the rate of alcohol dependency among the Naga population. “If there was one, it would definitely be an eye opener and throw much needed light on a subject matter that requires serious brainstorming based on facts and figures, not on guesswork, to determine its seriousness in Nagaland’s context,” the forum said.

The forum said it is important to recognize the fact that majority of the Naga population, like anywhere else, are teetotalers by conscious choice, not because of any restriction. “No diktat or legislation can change society. Continuing with Prohibition, even when it is practically impossible to implement, can only be rationalized as an attempt to compensate for one’s own failures and deflect the blame elsewhere,” it stated.

“Ultimately prohibition will not work, no matter what,” the forum opined, and rued that the Nagaland Government and its influencers are yet to learn the same bitter truth even after 34 years.”

While acknowledging the “noble” and “not so noble” intentions of proponents of the NLTP Act, the DUCCF viewed that with the coming of education and the level of progress in Naga society, the situation is vastly different from the 1980s and Naga society can cope with the free availability of liquor if prohibition is lifted. 

“This is the reason why many Tribal Hohos, Student Orgabizations, CSOs and Women’s Organizations who were initially ‘for’ Prohibition have now realized this Act is doing more harm than good and therefore they have voiced out for a more pragmatic approach,” it stated. The forum posited that lifting prohibition would be a sign that Naga society has matured and said that “real change should be from the inside-out and not imposed upon us from outside.”