Mizoram govt. taken to court over liquor losses

first_imgLiquor dealers in Mizoram have taken the Zoramthanga government to court for losses caused by extension of dry days initially meant for the Christmas season.In keeping with its election promise, the Mizo National Front government had banned the sale of liquor from December 21, 2018, to January 14, 2019. The ban was later extended till March 10.On Thursday, the Mizoram Liquor Vendors’ Association and each owner of the State’s three bonded warehouses filed separate lawsuits in the Aizawl Bench of the Gauhati High Court seeking to know how their losses would be recovered and whether the government has any prohibition policy in place.The court has set January 22 as the date of hearing and has asked the State government to produce the proceedings of the Cabinet meetings leading to the imposition of dry days.After the first Cabinet meeting on December 18, 2018, the government closed down nine State-run liquor outlets and declared dry days from December 21, 2018, to January 14, 2019, in view of Christmas and New Year celebrations. Republic Day and the local Chapchar Kut festival were the reasons cited for extending the dry day to March 10 after the second Cabinet meeting on January 10.Mounting expenses“The government has kept us in a limbo by not saying clearly whether we have to wind up. Extension of dry days has hit our business hard. We are maintaining our outlets, paying employees and taking care of other mounting expenses,” said Francis Sailo, an Aizawl-based liquor vendor. The liquor dealers said the State government should have come out with an exit policy with a time-frame to phase out the business. They said the uncertainty has led to piling up of liquor stock since the dealers have to honour their permits for purchase till March this year.Under pressure from the influential church, total prohibition was first imposed via the Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act in 1997 when Lal Thanhawla was the Chief Minister. The move, however, did not help his Congress party win the Assembly election the following year.The Congress replaced total prohibition by controlled prohibition 18 years later through the Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control) Act of 2014. A few wine shops were accordingly opened in 2015 and the State government recorded around ₹70 crore in annual revenue through the sale of alcohol.Push from church An unhappy church commissioned a study on the effects of alcohol on individuals and the Mizo society. A team of academics concluded in 2018 that the social cost of liquor was higher than the revenue earned.Liquor dealers said the liquor stock unsold since the imposition of the Zoramthanga government’s dry day order was worth more than ₹40 crore. “The government should either buy this stock or compensate us,” a dealer said.last_img read more

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