Patna, Oct 3: People in rural Bihar have developed a taste for the good things of life amid the panchayat polls where candidates are offering them expensive treats.
Ram Avatar Saw (44), an unemployed person and native of Sandesh block in Bhojpur district, has taken to smoking cigarettes these days.
"As the Panchayat election is underway in the district, I along with several others used to assemble at tea stalls of the village in the morning hours. We knew that the candidates who are in the fray in the panchayat election would come there to campaign, offering us breakfast, tea and sweets. I used to smoke bidis which are available at Rs 3 per packet and each packet contains 20 bidis. Since the election campaign has started in the region, the candidates or their supporters offer us packets of cigarettes," Saw said.
"The candidates have upgraded the tastes of youths as well. Those who are addicted to tobacco and pan masala are consuming expensive brands, courtesy of the candidates," Saw said.
An unemployed youth Kirath Sharma (26) said: "The candidates are offering many things like coupons for petrol. Some candidates have tied up with fuel stations and are giving handwritten coupons having a value of Rs 100 and Rs 200 which we are depositing in particular fuel stations and filling petrol in our bikes."
"The candidates are inviting potential voters for lunch and dinner where they offer non vegetarian meals and liquor to invitees in expectation of getting their votes. The supporters of candidates take the names and addresses of invitees followed by distributing fuel coupons to them," Kirath Sharma said.
Throwing a secret booze party in the dry state where prohibition is in force is turning out to be the main attraction in many villages. Those who used to go to the liquor 'bhatti' (local liquor manufacturing units) to consume countrymade liquor in the past are heading towards these liquor parties and consuming Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) followed by fish-rice or meat-rice for dinner. The candidates discuss winning and losing points with invitees and request them to cast their votes in their favour.
Due to frequent parties, demand for liquor has increased in Bihar these days. As per the data provided by the liquor prohibition unit of Bihar, the department has seized 4.5 lakh litres of IMFL and countrymade liquor since the model code of conduct came into force in Bihar. Over 1.4 lakh litres was seized in September.
The consumption of liquor during the panchayat elections has come into the public domain several times in Bihar. One such incident happened in Gaya on September 19 when the police arrested five persons including a BJP district vice president of the farmers wing Dharmjeet Singh and Jagarnathpur Panchayat Mukhiya Dharmendra Singh for consuming liquor and being involved in hooliganism.
Mano Ram, the SHO of Fatehpur police station said: "We have booked them under liquor prohibition act Bihar 37b/c and sent them to jail."
Dipak Kumar, chief of the election commission of Bihar warned: "Those who are involved in liquor consumption or any other violations of the model code of conduct will face action as per the law."
SK Singhal, the DGP of Bihar said: "Conducting peaceful Panchayat elections is our top priority. We have directed all districts to intensify patrolling in vulnerable areas and take strong action against offenders."
"We have written letters to DGPs of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Jharkhand to coordinate with our security personnel at the borders of these states. Besides, we have also requested the DGP of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) to keep a close tab on illegal activities on borders connected with Nepal," Singhal said.