Jammu: Since Jammu and Kashmir is a tourist state, it would be “impossible” to ban sale and consumption of alcohol in the state, the government said on Tuesday.
“It is not possible to impose a ban on manufacturing, sale and consumption of alcohol in the state, as such move would prove counterproductive and result in clandestine smuggling of liquor into the state,” Finance Minister, Abdul Rahim Rather told the Legislative Assembly in response to the Cut Motion moved by PDP MLA Sayed Bashir Ahmad.
Rather said that it has been observed that imposition of total ban results in manufacturing of spurious and poisonous liquor, which is more hazardous for health.
“In the ‘90s, Andhra Pradesh enforced prohibition policy, but abandoned it in less than two years. Similarly, liquor was banned in Haryana in 1996, but the ban was lifted within two years,” Rather said.
Currently liquor is banned in Gujarat, but clandestine smuggling of liquor and bootlegging is rampant there, he said. “The ban has become controversial in Gujarat following a July 2009 episode in which widespread poisoning resulted from alcohol that had been sold illegally.”
Rather also said that Jammu and Kashmir is a tourist state and has to keep in view the requirements of the tourism. However, he said he was personally interested in banning liquor but can’t impose the ban himself.
“If legislators want ban on sale of liquor in the state, they should pass a joint resolution for it in the House and I will myself vote in its favor, and the state will then explore other options to generate revenue,” said Rather.
Earlier, some Jammu-based legislators also demanded a complete ban on liquor in the state during their speeches over the just passed state budget during the zero hour.
“You have changed Jammu, the city of temples, into city of wine shops. Our youth have become addicted to alcohol and brought various social issues in our society. We want government to impose complete ban on sale of liquor,” said MLA Ashwani Kumar.
State BJP president Jugal Kishore said it was hard to get drinking water in Jammu city, but alcohol is easily available everywhere. “For revenue generation, government supports sale of alcohol in the state, but does not care about the social evils it gives rise to in the society,” said Kishore.
Another BJP MLA Chaman Lal Gupta also accused government of deliberately supporting sale of alcohol for imposition of heavy taxes on it and generating maximum revenue from it.
Jammu and Kashmir generates revenue of Rs 637 crore, out of total Rs 6700 crore, from the sale of liquor including Rs 420 crore from the excise duty and Rs 217 crore from sales tax.