Manipur: Government Faces Backlash as Chief Minister N Biren Singh Pushes for Liquor Legalization
IMPHAL: In a bold attempt to bolster the state's economic standing, Chief Minister N Biren Singh, at the helm of the Manipur government, has fervently pursued the removal of the long-standing prohibition on liquor. This strategic maneuver aims to generate an annual revenue of Rs. 600 crore, although it has encountered vehement opposition from various Civil Social Organisations (CSOs) and outlawed groups in dry Manipur.
During a cabinet meeting on Monday night, chaired by Chief Minister N Biren Singh, the contentious decision to legalize liquor gained official approval. Sources close to the Chief Minister revealed that the relevant gazette notification would be published on Tuesday. Additionally, the Manipur cabinet sanctioned the Manipur Excise (Amendment) Rules, 2023, effectively legalizing the entire spectrum of liquor-related activities, including production, manufacture, possession, import, export, transport, purchase, sale, and consumption.
This marks the second instance where the state cabinet has greenlit the legalization of liquor, underscoring the perceived necessity to regulate liquor production and curb the consumption of counterfeit spirits. The initial approval for liquor legalization occurred on September 20, 2022.
The origins of liquor prohibition in Manipur trace back to April 1, 1991, when the RK Ranbir Singh government implemented the ban in response to a total prohibition decree by the outlawed organization People’s Liberation Army (PLA). This move garnered widespread support from various CSOs, including the Coalition Against Drugs & Alcohol (CADA) and the All Manipur Women Social Reformation & Development Samaj (Nupi Samaj).
However, the recent decision by Chief Minister N Biren Singh has triggered a wave of discontent, manifesting in strong protests. Demonstrators, armed with placards bearing messages such as "No to the legalization of liquor in Manipur," "Withdraw cabinet’s decision," and "Save the people of Manipur," staged a sit-in to voice their opposition.
As the Manipur government forges ahead with its plans to lift the long-standing liquor prohibition, the contentious move remains a focal point of public debate. Concerns over potential ramifications on public health and safety add complexity to an already contentious decision, heightening tensions between the government and vocal dissenting factions.