Prohibition in India

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Prohibition in India exists in the states of Gujarat and Nagaland; parts of Manipur; as well as the Union Territory of Lakshadweep. Kerala is implementing prohibition in phased manner. All other Indian states and union territories permit the sale of alcohol.


Mahatma Gandhi considered 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 Indian state in India with a death penalty for makers and sellers of homemade liquor where fatalities are caused. The legislation is titled the Bombay Prohibition (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2009.[3] The legislation was prompted by numerous deaths resulting from the consumption of methyl alcohol.[4]

Predictably, smuggling and illicit sale of alcohol are very common.[5] "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.[6]


Foreigners and NRIs are able to purchase 30-day liquor permits.[7]

A domicile can obtain a permit only on health grounds. Alcohol can also be legally consumed at special economic zones (SEZs), of which the state has 22.[8]


On 21 August 2014, the Chief Minister Oommen Chandy announced, after a long persuasion from KPCC President V M Sudheeran, that state will implement prohibition in phased manner.[9] The decision was supported by the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and the Kerala Congress.[10] Liquor bars in Kerala had to renew licenses every year. So the state government did not license any bar on 31 March 2014 resulting in closure of 418 bars. The state government also declared its intention of not renewing licenses of the remaining 313 bars in the state next year. The state owned Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco) has 338 shops in state. Bevco will shut down 10% of them every year. Consumerfed, which has 46 shops, will also be closed. Starting 1 April 2015, liquor will be available only in 5-star hotels in the state.[9] There were 14 5-star hotels in the state as of August 2014.[11] Toddy, which has alcohol content of less than around 10%, will continue to be legally sold. All Sundays will be observed as dry days.[9]


Lakshadweep completely bans the sale and consumption of alcohol.[7] Consumption is permitted only on the island of Bangaram. Bangaram is an uninhabited island, but the Bangaram Island Resort has a bar.[12]


Prohibition is enforced in the Imphal East, Imphal West, Thoubal and Bishnupur districts of Manipur. Prohibition in Manipur was demanded by women's groups and several underground armed outfits, and was enforced state-wide by the R.K. Ranbir Singh government with effect from 1 April 1991.[13] Manipur had a tradition of neshabandhis (locals usually led by the famous Meira Paibis or "Mothers of Manipur"), who cracked down on alcohol. The law is not imposed on some SCs and STs who are traditional liquor brewers. Therefore, locally brewed rice beer and wine is openly available at Sekmai, Andro and any Kabui village.[14] Local brews called ashaba and atingba are available in most areas, and authorities usually ignore their sale and consumption.[7] Myanmarese, Chinese and Thai beer are also easily available.[15]

In 2002, 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 INR50 crore (US$8.2 million) per annum.[2][16] The state Legislative Assemble passed the Manipur Liquor Prohibition (Amendment) Bill, 2002 on 31 July 2002 lifting prohibition in the five hill districts[17] of Churachandpur, Churachandpur, Senapati, Tamenglong and Ukhrul. Prohibition remains in force in the 4valley districts of Bishnupur, Imphal East, Imphal West and Thoubal.


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.[18] Traditional Zu and Rohi liquor can still be prepared and consumed.[19] Enforcement of the ban is lax and Indian Made Foreign Liquor is readily available. Authorities generally turn a blind eye towards illegal sales. Reports have stated that some police officials themselves engage in bootlegging.[7][20] The Congress party has termed prohibition a "total failure" and has pleaded for it to be revoked.[2]

In July 2013, then Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio admitted in the state Legislative Assembly that prohibition was a failure. The excise department had earned around INR600 lakh (equivalent to INR30 crore or US$5.0 million in 2014) prior to prohibition. It earned about INR10 lakh (US$16,000) annually in NLTP Act related fines as of June 2014.[21] The Morung Express estimated that were were about 500 illegal liquor bars in Dimapur, the largest city in the state, as of August 2014.[22] Alcohol is also smuggled in from neighbouring Assam.[23]

Dry days[edit]

Dry Days are specific days when the sale of alcohol is prohibited. Dry Days are fixed by the respective state government. Most Indian states observe dry days on major religious festivals/occasions depending on the popularity of the festival in that region. National holidays such as Republic Day (January 26), Independence Day (August 15) and Gandhi Jayanti (October 2) are usually dry days throughout India.[24] Dry days also depend on the establishment selling alcohol. For example, generally 5-star hotels do not have to observe all the dry days that liquor stores and small bars may have to. Dry days are also observed on and around voting days.[25][26]

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.[27] 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$550 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.[28] 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,[29] a period of 19 months after the ban had been imposed.[2]


The Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition (MLTP) Act banned sale and consumption of alcohol in 1995. The Mizoram Presbyterian Church, the largest denomination in the Christian-dominated state, played a major role in the enforcement of prohibition.[2] Liquor permits called "red cards" were issued to ex-servicemen and others on "health grounds". Tourists were also permitted to bring alcohol into the state.[30] In 2007, the MLTP Act was amended to allow wine to be made from guavas and grapes, but with restrictions on the alcohol content and the volume possessed. It is illegal to transport these products out of the state.[7] 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]

Mizoram repealed prohibition on 10 July 2014, a period of 17 years after it had been imposed. On that date, the state Legislative Assembly passed the Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control) Bill 2014 (or MLPC), replacing the MLTP Act, and permitting the consumption, sale, retail, manufacture, storage and transport of various kinds of alcohol including country-made liquor.[31] The Presbyterian Church, in which more than 50% of the state's population are members, had organised mass prayers in all member churches across the state twice that year opposing the repeal of prohibition. Excise and narcotics minister R. Lalzirliana who introduced the MLPC bill explained, "As the prohibition only increased the sale of spurious liquor, we strongly felt the need to lift the prohibition so that those people who cannot do without drinks can find good quality liquor at cheaper prices." Lalzirliana, who belongs to Presbyterian Church, had also participated in a mass prayer at his local church. The minister stated, "I asked God to prevent me from introducing the bill in the Assembly if that is what he really wanted."[32]

Tamil Nadu[edit]

Total prohibition was introduced in Madras State (which included Tamil Nadu) when C. Rajagopalchari became Chief Minister in 1937. 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.[27]

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. ^ Sinha, Kounteya (16 December 2011). "Bengal hooch tragedy: Alcohol among major global killers". The Times of India. 
  4. ^ "Bengal Hooch tragedy: Toll 171, excise officer suspended". The Indian Express. 16 December 2011. Retrieved 2 September 2014. 
  5. ^ "Prohibition – Gujarat's worst kept secret". 11 December 2002. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c d e "No Drink For You? India's Dry States". Full Stop India. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b c "Kerala, one of the highest consumers of alcohol, to bid goodbye to booze". The Economic Times. ET bureau. 21 August 2014. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  10. ^ This decision is backed by the Muslim League and the Christian dominated Kerala Congress and in many ways could be seen as a political decision.
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Bangaram Island Resort Official Website". Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
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  14. ^
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  16. ^
  17. ^ Welman, Frans (19 March 2011). Out of Isolation - Exploring a Forgotten World. Booksmango. p. 473. Retrieved 24 August 2014. 
  18. ^ "Alcohol prohibition to remain in Nagaland". 
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Nagaland 'wet' after 23 yrs of prohibition". The Telegraph. 16 February 2012. Retrieved 26 April 2013. 
  21. ^
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  24. ^ Three cheers to dry days!
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ a b "Yo-yoing of prohibition in TN". The New Indian Express. 5 February 2013. Retrieved 25 September 2013. 
  28. ^ "Prohibition ends in Haryana, India". BBC News. 31 March 1998. 
  29. ^ "The Indian Liquor Industry Prohibition Story: The Politics of Liquor", IBS Center for Management Research (ICMR) (IBS Hyderabad), retrieved 1 November 2012 
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  32. ^