AIZAWL, July 10 � Mizoram will be a wet State again after 17 years.
Amid strong opposition from the Church, the Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition & Control) Bill, 2014 was passed today by the Mizoram Assembly to replace the existing Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act, 1995, which had been in force in the State for about 17 years.
Introduced by State Excise and Narcotics Minister R Lalzirliana, the bill was introduced in the Assembly after a prolonged debate and strong opposition from the opposition party. Lalzirliana said the new legislation is just a replacement for the MLTP Act and does not envisage freeing of liquor as doubted by churches and the people.
He said only a licensed person would be allowed to open a retail wine shop and sell liquor in the State. However, there is severe punishment to the extent of five years imprisonment and imposition of fine on violation of the law, he added.
The Minister stated that for several years the youths in Mizoram had been plagued due to the consumption of spurious and unhealthy liquor leading to the death of a number of youths. There is no provision for lifting ban on liquor, rather severe restriction and penalty would be imposed under this law, he said.
Reacting to the speculation from the opposition that the new bill would bring clash between the State Government and churches, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla said, it is not meant to bring a fight between the government and churches.
On July 7, reiterating its opposition to the government�s plan to review and repeal the MLTP Act, the Mizoram Synod, the highest administrative body of the largest Church denomination, Mizoram Presbyterian Church of India, in an ardent appeal, had asked the State Government for the continuation of MLTP Act, 1995.
As estimated, the government is expected to receive about Rs 30 crores a year if the Bill is enforced in the State.
A �Study Group� on the MLTP Act, headed by H Raltawna, a former IAS officer, had submitted its report to the State Government. The team did not directly recommend lifting of the ban but its report stated that the prohibition was a failure in the State.
High demand for alcohol in the State was the main reason behind the difficulty in enforcing the prohibition effectively in the State, the Study Group report revealed. The cost of liquor hit the roof but the demand was always high, the report added.
According to the data submitted to the Study Group by C Lalhrekima, a psychiatrist, more cases of liver diseases due to alcohol consumption were recorded in the Aizawl Civil Hospital during the prohibition period.