Mizoram Home Minister R Lalzirliana on Friday refuted pointed criticism of the state’s new alcohol law saying the government is not interested in liquor revenue and that if it was, it would not put in place a permit system for consumers.
The Home Minister, who also holds the Excise portfolio under which Mizoram’s new law to allow the sale and consumption (albeit under strict regulation) of liquor after 18 years of total prohibition, also warned department officials of potentially strict disciplinary actions in case of any lapses in enforcing the new law, expected to come into full force in a few months.
“If we did covet alcohol tax as some critics are claiming, we would not have included provisions in the law that would make it necessary for consumers to first obtain permits. We would have allowed it for anyone to buy liquor and not set an age limit,” R Lalzirliana said.
One of the reasons for allowing the sale of alcohol in spite of strong opposition from the powerful Church and NGOs, he claimed, was because Mizos in general end up drinking uncontrollably once they are outside the state and in places where prohibition is not in force.
He claimed that many youngsters who travelled outside the state to compete even for positions in central security agencies end up ineligible because they drink too much once outside the state. He maintained that the state government’s move to invite recruiters for such bodies to conduct tests within Mizoram has yielded some success in that many youngsters get to make the cut since they are not enamoured by the lure of alcohol.
Responding to the Mizoram Excise and Narcotics Service Association president T Lalramzauva’s contention that the department is running on roughly four-fifths of it’s sanctioned strength and so rather ill-equipped to enforce the stringent rules of the new law, R Lalzirliana said the law empowers any citizen to enforce the law and so the department, as nodal agency, has the biggest possible workforce at it’s disposal.
“It will all be a matter of how well we work with local bodies and community volunteers,” R Lalzirliana said, adding he is aware many staff and officials of the department are considered by the general public as those who abet many misdemeanours related to alcohol.
“Unlike other departments we work directly with the public and therefore our image is easily tainted. In the near future we will start enforcing a new, much-criticised law. If there are lapses on our part, be forewarned that strict disciplinary action will be taken,” the Home Minister said while addressing MENSA members (a body comprising of the department’s field staff from the rank of constables to inspectors) in Aizawl.