Patna: The Nitish Kumar government on Saturday decided to exclude toddy from the list of banned intoxicants in Bihar, making a U-turn within 24 hours of tabling of the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Bill 2016 in the assembly.
Sources said the government took the decision under pressure from RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, who put his foot down on a toddy ban during a late-night discussion with Kumar on Friday. RJD is the biggest constituent in the three-party ruling alliance in the state. It has 80 MLAs followed by 71 of JD (U) and 27 of Congress.
On Saturday, the matter was discussed at a cabinet meeting chaired by Kumar and it was agreed upon that toddy will not be banned. The necessary amendment will be made in the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Bill 2016, said a source.
Deputy CM Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, Lalu’s younger son, said till the time state government is able to find some alternate jobs for the toddy-tapping community (pasis), there will be no ban on toddy. “Government is working to develop Nira (a non-fermented drink produced from palm), so that toddy tappers get alternate employment. Till that time, there will be no ban on toddy,” he said.
State excise minister Abdul Jalil Mastan had on Friday strongly advocated complete prohibition including ban on toddy. On Saturday, he changed his tune and said the old provisions on toddy would continue. At present, toddy can be sold at a distance of 100 m and 50 m in urban and rural areas, respectively, from public places like educational institutions, health centres and places of worship.
Minister and JD (U) functionary Krishnandan Prasad Verma said there were no differences within the ruling alliance and no one put pressure on the CM to make changes. “Everyone in the state wants strict prohibition law and the CM answered the questions put to him in this regard,” Verma said.