The Bihar government-led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has bowed under the pressure of his ally RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and has lifted the ban on the sale and consumption of toddy in the state.
Bihar Excise and Prohibition Minister Abdul Jalil Mastan on Saturday told media that there will be no ban on sale and consumption of toddy in the state.
“Ban on toddy has been lifted,” Mastan said.
The decision to exclude toddy from the list of intoxicants was taken in a special cabinet meeting chaired by Nitish Kumar.
In April after Bihar imposed a total liquor ban in the state, it also banned the sale of ‘toddy’. But the decision to ban toddy was not lauded by Lalu Prasad and his party Rashtriya Janata Dal.
According to RJD leaders, Lalu was not in favour to ban toddy.
“In last three and half months, Lalu has publicly expressed his displeasure over the government decision to ban toddy and urged the government to lift the ban and make it free as it was introduced during his tenure as Chief Minister in early 90s,” a leader close to Lalu said.
Lalu Prasad as Chief Minister had declared toddy tax-free in Bihar to help people engaged in the business, particularly the ‘Pasi’ caste.
For millions of people in rural Bihar — where toddy, locally called ‘tadi’, is considered the poor man’s beer — the ban came as bad news. For ages, toddy has been a favourite of villagers as a natural drink from the palm tree.
On Thursday, Lalu announced that the law he brought in 1991 as CM on toddy would remain in place and no changes would be made in the law. According to the 1991 law, trading of toddy in public place is allowed 100 meters away from public place in urban areas and 50 meter away from public place in rural areas.
There is no ban on tapping and consuming toddy for personal use under the law.
"There will be no ban on toddy in Bihar till we make some alternative arrangement for the Pasi community who are involved in this work", said Deputy CM Tejaswi Yadav.
"The law that was made in 1991 under Lalu Prasad govt will remain in place. There will be no change in that. Toddy has now been excluded from list of intoxicants", Excise and Prohibition Minister Abdul Jalil Mastan said.
Apart from Lalu, LJP Chief and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, and HAM leader and former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi had also been opposing ban on toddy as it would adversely affect the Pasi community who are involved in the trade.