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PTI

People who drink are great sinners, good for nothing, and do not deserve to be called Indians, according to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

The veteran socialist made the remarks on the floor of the state legislature.

The legislative council bore witness to his declamation on Wednesday when an amendment to the state's stringent prohibition law was placed before it after having been passed by the assembly.

Kumar, who has been a member of the upper house in the state ever since he became the chief minister in 2005, rose to take part in the debate.

Invoking Mahatma Gandhi, Kumar recalled the revulsion "Bapu" had for alcohol and railed against critics who questioned liquor ban in Bihar, which has been in force since 2016.

"Those who criticise us for bringing prohibition, think they are kaabil (accomplished). Actually they are maha ayogya (good for nothing) and maha paapi (great sinners)," Kumar had fumed.

The CM also said that it was Gandhi who had helped the country get Independence and, as such, those who disagreed with him on the issue of alcohol "cannot be called Hindustanis or Bharatiyas".

Prohibition was imposed in April, 2016 in keeping with an electoral promise Kumar had made to the state's women ahead of the assembly polls held the year before.

His government had, in its first couple of terms, faced flak for a liberal excise policy which allegedly facilitated mushrooming of liquor shops in every nook and corner.

Subsequent implementation of the prohibition law has, however, been patchy and called into question following a spurt in hooch deaths in the past few months.

The government maintained that the ban on liquor has led to improved standards of living.

Recently, Kumar turned down suggestions that those coming to the state from outside be exempted with the remark that anybody who found liquor ban inconvenient "need not visit Bihar".

He also exhorted people to publicly shame those found involved in sale or manufacture of illicit liquor.

Kumar's detractors have scoffed at the use of drones, helicopters and other such measures for keeping a check on bootleggers.

Moreover, his government was recently upbraided by the Supreme Court for having brought in a law which burdened the Patna High Court with cases relating to prohibition.

The latest amendment seeks to exempt "first time offenders" from jail term if they tell on their peddlers, a provision which, as per the opposition, could put the lives of informants at risk and be misused for setting personal scores.

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