By Samarjit Kambam
Dry state, wet state, arid state, slippery state. What difference does it make in our state of Manipur? It hardly matters whether ours has been going on as dry state for decades. The ironic status quo is that the consumption of Indian made foreign Liquor(IMFL) by the public remains the same or even more albeit at a higher price with no revenue going to the state govt. Even though our state was announced as Dry State years back, the consumption of liquor be it IMFL or local liquor has reached saturation point. No state or country in the world has been successful in banning liquor and it never will be. The more it is banned the greater the intensity of use by the public ‘cos when a substance is banned, its value increases manifold. Of late, the Government of Mizoram realised it was a Pyrrhic Victory to make it a dry state any longer and has lifted the ban after a hiatus of 17 long years hoping to earn Rs 30 crore or more revenues per year to the Government of Mizoram as many years of prohibiting IMFL as a dry state proved to be more of a futile experiment leading the government in a Catch-22 situation and didn’t serve the purpose of being a dry state. Same applies with our state of Manipur. I am not an economist but the status quo prevailing in our state as a dry state turns out to be more of an experiment of the “Luddites” which miserably failed. The present system favours and heaps money upon a select few – a realistic example of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.
Over and above availability of local liquor, mostly spurious, in every nook and corner of the locality, we can witness the huge crowd of teetotallers everyday at Kakhalong, Ragailong, Mochi Khul, Dewlahland, New Checkon, Sangakpham, Mahaballi, Major Khul and many others in Imphal valley, most particularly in the heart of the city and some at the outskirts of the city such as Sawombung. After 4 p.m., there is no place for parking of the vehicles at the above mentioned places which shows that the number of drinkers is eventually on the rise. Well, keeping the state as a dry one is tantamount to closing the front door and welcoming people from the back door or a place with no river but plenty of wells. The public are gonna drink through one way or the other no matter whether the state is dry, parched or scorched. In fact the number of drinkers and drunkards have increased since announcement of our state as a dry one decades back. The public are buying Indian made foreign liquors at double the printed price from canteens of police, army or other military formations but the exorbitant price doesn’t hamper the rate of purchase and consumption. So, both the public and government are losing in this current scenario. The state government needs no introspection in this regard for the result of being dry for such a long time is for all to see – not result oriented, topsy turvy objective and most of all the exponential rise in spurious country liquors thereby becoming a great hazard to the health of the teetolallers.
Most of the IMFL sold in canteens of military units or establishments are also spurious with many of them refilled in Assam and are usually known by hard core drinkers as “Khatkhati” liquor. In our country some states have their own unique liquor or wine. Royal Mawalin and Kesar Kasturi of Rajasthan, Chaang of Sikkim, Apong of Himalayan belt, Amrut Singlt Malt whiskey of Karnataka manufactured in Bengalaru, Kallu of Andhdra, wines of Nashik, Once when I was in Kerala, I noticed a signboard marked as ‘TODI’ (Toddy) and one person wearing a lungree and a vest was busy roasting/frying unskinned groundnuts on a big vessel upon a big fire. I thought it was a local hotel, but my curiosity got the better of me and I went inside. I hadn’t expected that there’d be such a huge crowd inside the crammed room and toddy was flowing everywhere. There was no meat, only roasted groundnut. Curious again, I took one sip with reluctance but the flavor welcomed my taste buds. As I am not a wine connoisseur I can’t exactly describe the taste but the roasted groundnut and coconut flavoured toddy seemed to be made for each other. From one sip, I climbed the chart upto half a litre and then it did its homework inside my brain. It would be very cruel on my part to say that its not unique. Its unique, just like ‘Feni’, the local brew of Goa. Likewise, our state’s ‘Chamelei’ of Sekmai now bottled as ‘Nongoubi’ has the uniqueness to climb lofty heights in the world of liquor. It has the potential to enter the liquor bout and beat many of its rivals and is promising enough even to become an international brand. Its upto the state government to materialize it. Mention may be made of DesmondJi of Rajasthan which has already turned out into an international favourite and Johnny Walker of Indian origin stealing the international lime-light in the world of liquor. When it comes to local wine, Sekmai’s “Nongoubi” is famous for its uniqueness and comes at par with others that are popular. It will be a rightful step if this Sekmai product is exported to other states of India. It is already a known fact that it will occupy a big sloth in the world of liquor. Encouragement by the state government will go a long way in exposing this product even outside the country.
The public is really pissed off and fed up with this ‘dry state’ status. It is high time the state government lift this ban on IMFL and do away with the chapter of imposition of dry state. The step will be a win-win situation. The public will spend less expenditure, in the mean time revenue will flow to the state exchequer which can be used for developmental purposes of the state. The public wants the lifting of ban on IMFL at the earliest. Mr Bald, the bold leader of our state, we don’t care whether the licenses for opening liquor shop goes to your relatives, closed ones or your friends. Let nepotism and favouritism get cocktailed in this regard, we don’t care. We only want to get wet. That’s all, no more, no less.