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An update on prohibition in India

An update on prohibition in India

The Indian state of Bihar – with a population larger than that of Germany – is now in its third month of a six-month plan toward complete prohibition.

This abruptly declared dry state is home to 100 million residents. Many of the country’s wives – and some of the husbands – say the state’s chief minister’s move to heed the outpouring of female activists citing alcoholism as the underlying factor of statewide poverty and violence is the most significant aid the Bihar has ever received.

Still some argue it was poorly planned, too abrupt and not enough to cure the welfare issue.

Prohibition buildup

One female activist tells how a lack of restraint regarding alcohol has instigated nonsensical city planning.

“They don’t even think about where they are putting up a bar. You can find them right next to schools, or areas where there are families. There’s no consideration for women and children at all.”

Another woman, a member of a family advocate group explained alcohol as having become a gender issue and driving force for the state being one of the poorest in the country. “Our husbands earn barely anything … they just throw their money away on alcohol,” she says.

The World Health Organization confirms the alcohol-related gender disparity in Bihar and enumerates, at last count:

  • Bihari men imbibe three times as much as women
  • 95 percent of Bihari women are sober – with 90 percent having never had a drink in their lives
  • Bihari men have double the alcohol use disorders than any other group in the Southeast Asia region


Prohibition fallout

Part of chief minister Nitish Kumar’s election campaign was a promise to respond to urges from several women’s groups to outlaw alcohol. Just a few months after taking office, he followed through. Despite liquor licenses being renewed even up to one day prior to enforcement, on April 1, Kumar forbade local brews and liquor imports. Within the same week:

  • 85 people were jailed in violation of the ban
  • Police statewide raided 1,159 bars and alcohol shops
  • 20,000 liters of alcohol containing ethanol and 380 liters of distilled spirits were seized
  • Just under 750 people self-admitted into new government rehabilitation centers, reporting withdrawal symptoms

Some business owners were livid at the lack of advisement. “Overnight, our livelihoods have been taken from us. The ban is probably a good thing for Bihar, but the government should provide an alternative for the people whose lives will be affected by it.”

Elsewhere in the country, other statewide temporary alcohol bans have sparked violent protests and black market trade.

Back here at home

Here at home, history displays a very parallel response to prohibition as discussed in the second installment of Sovereign’s “State of Addiction Policy” editorial series:

“Prohibition had a number of unintended consequences. One was it changed how people thought about alcohol and alcoholism. In the years leading up to 1933, more and more scholarly and lay publications mentioned disease and alcoholism in the same breath. When the 18th Amendment was repealed, drinking – and drinking a lot – was in. Alcohol was elevated from sin juice to a perfect complement to any festive occasion.”

Prohibition and yoga

Just this past weekend, as yoga guru and political activist Baba Ramdev held a publicized yoga event at India Gate, Bihar’s chief minister asserted his sober stance and explained how it relates to the Indian-originated mind-body practice.

“Yoga is a natural treatment process, but it would be irrelevant unless a ban is imposed on sale of liquor across the country” Kumar said and echoed, “Yoga is irrelevant unless ban on liquor is also imposed.”

The Sovereign Health Group utilizes both cutting edge treatments and alternative therapies to help an individual detox and recover from life-impeding addictions such as alcoholism and drug dependency. We also employ a dual diagnosis of co-occurring mental health and addiction issues, and treat each individual holistically. Sovereign uses yoga, art, equine and exercise therapy in conjunction with cognitive modalities that enable the recovering to mindfully live beyond rehabilitation.

About the author

Sovereign Health Group staff writer Kristin Currin-Sheehan is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at