The Jammu and Kashmir government have ruled out a ban on sale and consumption of liquor in the only Muslim majority state of the country.
“People should decide what they ought to do. We can’t force our will on them. Let the issue be addressed in the ambit of freedom of choice,” said Haseeb A Drabu, J&K minister for finance, while speaking in the Legislative Council.
Batting for the self-regulation, Drabu said individuals should decide for themselves not the government. “Choices are not enforced in the free society,” he said
The government’s decision not to ban liquor has come in the backdrop of clamor for declaring the Jammu and Kashmir as a dry state. Several religious and civil society groups have been demanding the ban on liquor akin to Gujarat and Bihar.
Leading the pro-ban campaign is Karwan-e-Islami (KeI), one of the largest religious organizations in J&K. “We will not remain silent. The government’s decision is unfortunate. We will intensify our campaign after the Eid. We will hit the streets to press for our demands to ban the liquor in the state”, Moulana Ghulam Rasool Hami, chairman of KeI, told DNA.
The demand for the ban has come despite the fact that the Jammu and Kashmir are witnessing the upward trend in the sale and consumption of different types of liquor.
Official figures reveal that around 219718 lakh bottles of different types of liquor were sold in J&K in 2015-16. Around 169161 lakh bottles of liquor was sold in the state in 2014-15. In 2013-14, around 1,53,563 lakh bottles of liquor were sold in J&K
Liquor sales are one of the biggest revenue generators for Jammu and Kashmir government. J&K excise department has realised Rs 531.88 crore revenue from liquor sales in 2015-16 compared to Rs 464.88 crore in 2014-15. In 2013-14, the department collected a revenue of Rs 439.04 crore from liquor sales in the state.
Though most of the liquor is consumed in the Jammu region, the Kashmir valley to has seen a surge in the liquor sale and consumption despite the ban imposed by the ultras.
Liquor vends were closed in Kashmir after ‘Allah Tigers’ issued a blanket ban on its sale and consumption in 1989 when militancy started in Kashmir. The outfit had even ransacked and looted the liquor shops forcing all of them to close down instantly. However, a few of them have reopened in the high-security zones.