Echo of 1956 Act felt at liquor tragedy panel

Cuttack: An Act enacted in Odisha during Chief Minister Nabakrushna Choudhury’s second term in 1956 had its echo felt at Justice A S Naidu Commission which is probing into the February 2012 Cuttack-Khurda districts liquor tragedy that claimed at least 40 lives.

Recording his statements Nisha Mukti Abhijan convener Chittaranjan Mohanty told the Commission on Saturday that the February tragedy could have been avoided had the police and excise officials acted swiftly.

Criticizing present liquor policy in state, Mohanty suggested that the Orissa Prohibition Act of 1956 has its relevance now and steps should be taken to promulgate the Act in toto that saw the light of the day almost six decades ago.

Deposition, recording of statements and cross examination of witnesses began before the Commission on Saturday. At least three witnesses were summoned to record their statements but only two, including Mohanty turned up.

Mohanty came down heavily on the liquor policy that is in force in the state saying the policy is aimed at encouraging trade in liquor by making the people addict to liquor and keeping the liquor barons in good humour only to add revenue to its coffer.

“Habitual offender and involved in the illicit trade in liquor for last five years. He was also arrested several times in the past. Knowing all this, the local police in particular allowed the bootlegger to script the macabre of death,” Mohanty said.

Explaining some of the provisions of the 1956 Act, Mohanty pointed out that the Act called for registration of all liquor consumers in the statwe who would be provided with a license to procure their quota.

The Act also suggested for having a Constitutional post of Prohibition Commissioner who would have powers like that of election commissioner to ensure prohibitions in the State without interference from the government, he said.

Besides Mohanty, another witness Bikash Sahu also deposed before the Commission on the day.

Meanwhile, the Commission ordered the state government to regularly file affidavits once in every two months giving details of the action taken by the government on the interim report submitted by the Commission suggesting measures to curb liquor tragedies.