Prohibition in India

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Prohibition in India exists in the states of Gujarat, Mizoram, and Nagaland; parts of Manipur; as well as the Union Territory of Lakshadweep. All other Indian states and union territories permit the sale of alcohol.


Mahatma Gandhi identified the consumption of alcohol as a major social evil and encouraged complete prohibition in India.[1] With this in mind, the Constitution of India included Article 47 in the Directive Principles of State Policy, which reads, "The state shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the use except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health." Madras Province and Bombay State implemented prohibition between 1948 and 1950, and total prohibition was in operation in Madras State, Maharashtra, Gujarat and 11 districts of Andhra Pradesh from 1958 to 1969, and other sizeable areas in Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa (now Odisha), Karnataka and Kerala. One-fourth of India's population was under prohibition by 1954, and in the same year, the Prohibition Enquiry Committee set April 1958 as the target to achieve national prohibition. However, the potential loss in state revenue due to loss of excise revenue from the sale of alcohol discouraged most state governments from enforcing long-term prohibition. Alcohol accounted for almost 10% of total state revenues, and over one-third in the case of Punjab. In 1964, the Centre offered to compensate the state governments 50% of their loss in excise revenue caused by the implementation of prohibition. Most states did not take up the proposal and lifted prohibition; however, Gujarat retained it.[2]

A renewed push for prohibition occurred under the Morarji Desai government in 1977, but it failed to achieve nationwide prohibition. The negative effects of prohibition including wide-scale sale of spurious and cheap liquor, the rise of organised crime and bootlegging due to the growth of a black market for alcohol, a large police force required to implement prohibition and loss of employment connected to the alcohol industry reduced demands for prohibition and led to calls for regulation of alcohol. Anbumani Ramadoss urged for a national alcohol policy and nationwide prohibition while serving as Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare from May 2004 to April 2009.[2]


Bombay State implemented prohibition between 1948 and 1950. Total prohibition was in operation from 1958.[2] Gujarat has a sumptuary law in force that proscribes the manufacture, storage, sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. The legislation has been in force since 1 May 1960 when Bombay State dissolved into Maharashtra and Gujarat. The Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949 is still in force in both states, however the licensing regime in Maharashtra is quite liberal with granting licenses to vendors and traders. Gujarat is the only state in India that has the death penalty for those found guilty of making and selling spurious liquor which causes death. Then Governor Kamla Beniwal gave her stamp of approval to the Bombay Prohibition (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2009 on 5 December, two years after it was cleared by the Legislative Assembly.[3]

Predictably, smuggling and illicit sale of alcohol are very common.[4] "Folder" is a slang term of unknown origin, used in Gujarat to refer to a bootlegger who delivers alcohol on-demand. Consumers often have no choice of a brand or type, when purchasing bootleg liquor.[5]


A system of temporary and longer-term permits is in place, which allows the holder to purchase liquor from designated places. Foreigners and NRIs can purchase 30-day liquor licence/permit at designated 5 star hotels and other locations. The permit costs between INR100–200 and requires passport and some proof of address where the person is staying in Gujarat. The permit entitles the holder to purchase 2 units (750ml) every 10 days. However, the 30-day permit can only be availed once. After it expires, the person will not be issued a new permit even if they leave and re-enter Gujarat at a later date. Visitors staying longer than 30 days will have to apply for a non-residence permit. As of 15 February 2010, tourists arriving via Ahmedabad airport can buy on the spot liquor licence from the Gujarat Tourism Department counter located inside the domestic terminal.[6]


Lakshadweep is the only union territory of India to have a complete ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol.[6] However, consumption is permitted on the island of Bangaram. Bangaram is an uninhabited island but the Bangaram Island Resort has a bar.[7]


Prohibition is enforced in 4 of Manipur's 9 districts. Prohibition in Manipur was demanded by women's groups and several underground armed outfits, and was enforced state-wide in 1991. However, local brews called ashaba and atingba are available in most areas, and authorities generally ignored the local brews and usually only confiscated branded liquor during raids.[6] In 2010, the Okram Ibobi Singh government took a Cabinet decision to lift prohibition from the five hill districts of Manipur to allow the government to increase revenues by INR500 million (US$8.4 million) per annum.[2]


The Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition (MLTP) Act banned sale and consumption of alcohol in 1995. The Church played a major role in the enforcement of prohibition.[2] In 2007, the MLTP Act was amended to legalise the manufacture of wine from guavas and grapes but with strict rules. Rules restricted the ABV of wine as well as the quantity of wine any individual could possess. It also forbid the transport or export of locally manufactured wine outside of Mizoram.[6] The move was intended to facilitate the production of wine for export purposes so that the wine industry in the state could grow and generate employment.[2]


Nagaland was the first North Eastern state to introduce prohibition, under pressure from the influential Naga Mother's Association.[2] The Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act (NLTP) banned the sale and consumption of alcohol in 1989.[8] However, enforcement of the ban is lax and IMFL is easily available in restaurants and hotels. Authorities generally turn a blind eye towards illegal sale. Reports have stated that top police officials themselves indulge in bootlegging.[6][9] The Congress party has termed prohibition a "total failure" and has pleaded for it to be revoked.[2]

Dry Days[edit]

Dry Days are specific days when the sale of alcohol is banned, although consumption is permitted. All Indian states observe dry days on major religious festivals/occasions depending on the popularity of the festival in that region. Dry days may also depend on the establishment selling alcohol. For example, generally 5-star hotels do not have to observe all the dry days that smaller bars may have to. Dry Days are fixed by the respective state government. Dry days are intended to maintain peace and order during festival days. Dry days are also observed on voting days. National holidays such as Republic Day (26 January), Independence Day (15 August) and Gandhi Jayanthi (2 October) are usually dry days throughout India.

Earlier bans[edit]

Andhra Pradesh[edit]

Total prohibition was introduced in Madras State (which included Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema) when C. Rajagopalachari became Chief Minister in 1952.[10] Eleven districts of Andhra Pradesh were under prohibition from 1958 to 1969. Prohibition in the state was largely a result of the anti-liquor movement that grew out of an agitation started by the women of the rural Dubuganta district. Following an anti-liquor movement comprising rural and urban women of the state, Andhra Pradesh imposed prohibition in 1994, under the chief ministership of N. T. Rama Rao. Rao's successor N. Chandrababu Naidu repealed prohibition in 1997, claiming that it was "not successful or feasible because of the leakages within the state and from across the borders".[2]


In 1996, the Haryana Vikas Party (HVP) promised to make it illegal to buy, sell, consume or produce alcohol in the state of Haryana if it were elected to the Legislative Assembly. HVP was criticised by opposing parties for "trying to gain political mileage out of a sensitive issue like liquor prohibition". However, HVP won the elections. Within minutes of becoming Chief Minister, party leader Bansi Lal imposed prohibition in the state. During the first year of prohibition, the ban cost the state INR1200 crore (equivalent to INR33 billion or US$560 million in 2014) in excise revenue and led to a loss of 20,000 jobs in brewing, distilling and retailing of alcoholic beverages and led to a substantial decrease in earnings of 40,000 truckers, farmers and bottle producers. Haryana Police registered 98,699 cases involving about 100,000 people caught intoxicated or in possession of liquor. Police also seized over 1.3 million bottles and impounded 7,000 vehicles. The increase in cases clogged the court system and angered those arrested, who claimed that the government gave police "clear instructions to harass them and tally up as many criminal charges for drunkenness or possession of alcohol as possible". Those arrested also had to live with a criminal record, even after the repeal of prohibition.[11] Haryana also witnessed an alarming increase in deaths, resulting from the consumption of spurious liquor especially by the poor. The State Government raised taxes and fees for various state-provided services to offset the loss of revenue. Power tariff was hiked by 10–50%, bus fares by 25% and the petrol sales tax by 3%. The government also levied new taxes on businesses and self-employed people. Prohibition also turned illicit brewing and liquor smuggling into one of the biggest industries in the state, almost overnight. Haryana's tourism industry was badly affected, including state-owned Haryana Tourism Resorts. Tourists preferred to visit neighbouring states where there was no prohibition. Hotels and restaurants also suffered loss in profits.

The decision to impose prohibition had heavy political fallout for the HVP. Following the 1998 General Election, where the party won only 1 Lok Sabha seat, Bansi Lal's son openly opposed prohibition. Eventually, the Haryana government decided to lift prohibition in April 1998,[12] a period of 19 months after the ban had been imposed.[2]

Tamil Nadu[edit]

Total prohibition was introduced in Madras State (which included Tamil Nadu) when C. Rajagopalchari became Chief Minister in 1952. After the bifurcation of Andhra State in 1953, Madras State which was later renamed Tamil Nadu, remained under prohibition for about two decades under Congress rule. Prohibition continued after Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) founder C. N. Annadurai formed his first government in 1967, but following a landslide victory in 1971, then Chief Minister M Karunanidhi repealed prohibition in 1972. Karunanidhi stated that Tamil Nadu could not remain an island when liquor was freely flowing in neighbouring states, saying "Tamil Nadu cannot serve as camphor in the midst of raging fire." However, he reintroduced prohibition in 1973. His successor, M. G. Ramachandran, who came to power in 1977, relaxed total prohibition but brought in strict regulations and made liquor available only to permit holders. However, the new system was abandoned in 1980, and several arrack and toddy shops also opened in the State, after the DMK came to power in 1989. The first file that J Jayalalithaa signed after becoming Chief Minister in 1991 banned arrack and toddy shops. In 2003, the State government took control of the sale of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL), and opened TASMAC shops to earn the revenue that was previously going to private parties.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "A Billion Bottles a Year Defy India Liquor Ban". The New York Times. 3 May 1987. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "The tragedy of prohibition". The Indian Express. 26 March 2010. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  3. ^ "Bengal hooch tragedy: Alcohol among major global killers". The Times of India. 16 December 2011. 
  4. ^ "Prohibition – Gujarat's worst kept secret". 11 December 2002. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c d e "No Drink For You? India's Dry States". Full Stop India. 
  7. ^ "Bangaram Island Resort Official Website". Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  8. ^ "Alcohol prohibition to remain in Nagaland". 
  9. ^ "Nagaland 'wet' after 23 yrs of prohibition". The Telegraph. 16 February 2012. Retrieved 26 April 2013. 
  10. ^ a b "Yo-yoing of prohibition in TN". The New Indian Express. 5 February 2013. Retrieved 25 September 2013. 
  11. ^ "Prohibition ends in Haryana, India". BBC News. 31 March 1998. 
  12. ^ "The Indian Liquor Industry Prohibition Story: The Politics of Liquor", IBS Center for Management Research (ICMR) (IBS Hyderabad), retrieved 1 November 2012