The Nagaland Baptist Churches Council (NBCC) has said that it is against serving or making alcohol available to the G-20 guests, and has urged the government to implement the NLTP Act with the will power and resolute decision.
THE NAGALAND LIQUOR TOTAL PROHIBITION ACT and G-20
Nagaland Baptist Church Council is not the guardian of the Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act (NLTP-Act) which received the accent of the Governor on the 13th April 1990 as published in the gazette of Nagaland Vide Notification No. Law Act/4/89 dated 24. .4.1990. The preface noted that the Act “Totally prohibit possession, sale, consumption and manufacture of liquor in and import and export thereof in the State of Nagaland.
The Act has been in the cold storage for three decades over. To say the least, it has never been systematically implemented. The Act has been defined as a failure even before the implementation because there is a lack of will power coupled with half hearted approach of the government. The government has been testing the water for the last few years. In the midst of lobbying and consultations, the church has stood her ground because she knew pretty the destruction it has caused our society. May it be known that liquor in our land is a cursed commodity. The NLTP-Act is bought with much sacrifice and with the help of God. The Act has never been implemented nor revised with the passage of time.
The NLTP Act has provision in different category for supervise relaxation and here I quote two of the related clauses and to point out that if this provision do not come under strict control of the government and the implementing body/agency, hotels and restaurants will become den of alcohol busy.
A week before the arrival of the G-20 honored guests to our land, the Chief Minister on March 27, 2023 proposed to allow sale of liquor to foreign nationals coming to the state which, he said is permitted within the ambit of Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition (NLTP) Act, 1989, by certain hotels of star category (Eastern Mirror, March 27, 2023). The reason given, because “Our State will be hosting a large number of foreign delegates for the G-20 business meet from 4th -6th April ….” This comes from clause 16 of the NLTP Act, p. 8.
Besides clause 8, clauses 9-14 also provide provisions in different categories one of such is clause 14 which states,”Not withstanding anything herein before contained, the State Government may prescribe the conditions under which permits may be issued for possession, use or consumption of liquor on health ground by a registered medical practitioner (p. 7).
Even though the Act says “Total Prohibition” it actually is not total. There are provisions where the Act states regulated use in different categories. The provisions stated in the Act permits the government and the individuals to use and obtain legally. Nevertheless, since the Act was not systematically enforced and the public were not educated, they were misled and the blame game started. This lackadaisical attitude led some to gain in an unfair means. The spurious liquor, black market and bootlegging are some clear examples of the outcome. Therefore, the problem is not the prohibition but lack of will power and determination in implementing the Act.
When the Act is not implemented every legal provision becomes a suspect. One of such is making liquor available during the G-20 summit. One can see the opportunity of misusing the provision because there will certainly be no supervision. There is every chance that the star hotels and restaurants will become den of liquor shop.
Lest we forget, Nagaland has a long history of bringing the NLTP Act to black and white. The movement began in in the early 1960s wherein, the church, and the civil society fought for almost three decades and finally NLTP Act came into being in 1989. In the 70s and the 80s, the Nagaland Baptist Church Council and the Naga Mothers Association spearheaded the movement, supported by the civil society organizations. This they did because they saw the evil of liquor in our society and what it has done to the generation then.
In the 80s, the movement became more pressed, aggressive and urgent that the last resort was to “Fast unto Death.” This, they did because they saw the ravaging effect of liquor in the society was going to the point of no return. They were serious because they love the people and want to see their children grow up free from indulging in something which resulted to broken homes, destroying the moral NLTP-Act has its own history. And we must not forget that the Act is bought with much sacrifice. Liquor is a cursed element in our society and we must not allow the evils of alcohol resurrect. We must deal with it with resolute will power. Legalization may generate revenue but a commodity which has the curse of the people will never take us forward. We are all aware that Nagaland is a revenue starved State but to imagine that the sell of liquor will rescue the State is senseless.
Listen to the tone of a letter addressed to the Chief Minister through Excise minister on April 17, 1974 speaks volume of how distressful the church became on hearing the authority trying to please people for their loyalty to the party.
“We are greatly alarmed to learn that you and your Government are planning to renew the Wine-Shop Licenses granted by the government as a special favour to those people for the loyalty to the party. If this true, this plan of yours will cause great resentment and alarm among the churches and their leaders throughout Nagaland, and there is bound to be serious repercussions all over the land. If this should happen,this will lead our people, who have been so earnestly praying for you and your Government, to lose their confidence in your leadership.”
Today we still carry the same sentiment and our message to people in the authority will be no less different. Our prayer is that the authority will listen to the church and above everything, listen to God for the sake of our people. Implement the Act and let us help each other. The government has the Act, you have the legislative power. The church has the man power and God to help us overcome if that is, we are sincere. For once, let us stop testing the water because by doing so, you are testing God.
G-20 is a respectable and honorable body. We must feel privileged and honored to be given the chance to host the summit. Allow them to get God’s blessing and host them well but not with a prohibited commodity. Allow them to accomplish their task 1) Green Development, Climate Finance & LiFE, 2) Accelerated, Inclusive & Resilient Growth, 3) Accelerating Progress on SDGs, 4) Technological Transformation & Digital Public Infrastructure, 5) Multilateral Institutions for the 21st century, 6) Women-led Development.
Let us keep this in perspective. Whatever is done must be objective, rational and not be antagonistic.
· It must honor God and put the welfare of the commoners in perspective.
· Who are the people who will gain and the section of people who will loss must be specified.
· Our children and the generations to come must be projected. We must seek the wisdom to see the unseen.
· If with the Act we are failing, we know very well what will happen if a pinhole passage is opened. It will only make matter worse.
· If with the Act there are loopholes, common sense will tell us what is waiting once we let go of the Act.
· We know what our children will inherit and the cycle will continue.
· At the end who will be blamed?
Therefore, the Nagaland Baptist Church Council, comprising of 21 Associations and 4 Associate members with 1724 churches stand against serving or making alcohol available to the G-20 honored guests. Further, who urge the government to implement the NLTP Act with the will power and resolute decision. May God bless our guests and our government and the leadership.
Rev. Dr. Zelhou Keyho
General Secretary, NBCC