~ Tiatoshi Longkümer
Which team is officially assigned to carry out the Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act (NLTP), 1989, in the state of Nagaland—Assam Rifles or Nagaland Excise department? Surprisingly, in most of the cases, I found out from the news reports that the Assam rifles or security forces are more actively involved in locating and arresting the illegal transportation, sales and manufacturing of liquor smugglers in Nagaland than our own men and women in police uniform. Thankfully, many illegal drugs and alcohol smugglers were arrested by the Assam rifles and handed over to the local police stations over the years. Unless the Chapter III of the 1989 NLTP Act had been modified or changed by an act of legislative assembly, the original act of 1989 NLTP assigns the Prohibition officers and assigned official are to be from the Nagaland state employees, as Director of Prohibition, or prohibition officers, prohibition council and committee, and subsequently the duty of the officers of government should be assisted by local bodies (Chapter- III, 30). Moreover, Chapter –III, 32 says, under the title Investment of powers of Officer-in-charge of Police Station: “The State Government may invest any officer of the Excise Department not below the rank of Inspector with the powers of an Officer-in-charge of a Police Station for the investigation of offences under this Act.” In other words, it’s the right and absolute duty of the Nagaland excise department, as per assignment of the state government, to carry out regular or routine checking at any suspicious place or gate to prohibit the entry and sale or consumption of liquid alcohol, except of those few cases as permitted by state government under Chapter 1 clause 14 & 15 on the ground of health, medical, scientific and industrial purposes.
I have never worked under government sector and therefore I don’t know how the things are inside the state government working system. But from the simple reading the NLTP Act of 1989, I don’t find any clause that assigns the Assam rifles or security forces to be the keeper of the NLTP Act, except that the central forces are permitted to use alcohol within their own company/camp. Why then, the officially assigned personnel are less vigilant against the illegal activities in the protection our own people and land? Is there any serious nexus going on between the government officials and smugglers?
The same issue has been raised by the writer of the Tiryimyim (Ao vernacular paper) editorial on last Thursday, August 27, 2020 edition, under the caption “Yi apuba maksü” (Shame on arresting alcohol smugglers). The writer argues that in such a time like this when people are not permitted to move out of one’s village or town even to searching food, why the alcohol smugglers are able to passed numerous check gates without any care and can sale the illegal liquor in different places in the state? When cars fully loaded with alcohol entered Nagaland, it was not the Nagaland police or excise, but the Assam rifles who had managed to arrest the smugglers. Sadly, just a few days ago, it was again the Assam rifles who had located and busted the illegal manufacturing of alcohol just in the vicinity of the dimapur town.
I am so thankful to the Assam rifles or security forces for courageously taking up this mission to fight this social menace, illegal liquor trade in Nagaland. But the law and order duty should be actually carried out by the state police, not the central forces, unless it is a case of terrorism or threat to national security. However, if the excise personnel find it too difficult to carry out the NLTP act of 1989, as reason best know to them, then the Nagaland state assembly must re-consider to change the law enforcing team. State Government must seek the permission of the central government to let the security forces or Assam rifles in Nagaland to do the duty in protecting the state from the illegal trade of drugs and alcohol. After passing a serious and contentious bill by the state legislature in 1989 if we continue to see the same illegal scenario today or a “non-commissioned” team is better in controlling the law and order situation in the state, then we must urgently reconsider to change the law enforcing agency, the Liquor Prohibition team, for effective implementation of the 1989 Act.