The Indian state of Bihar has banned the production and sale of alcohol from April, a move that has been welcomed by church officials and women groups. "It is a courageous step and a big blessing for the families indeed," said Archbishop William D'Souza of Patna, based in the Bihar state capital. "It will not only reduce criminal activity and accidents in society but will also lead to a better family and social life," said the archbishop. The state government led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar amended the Bihar Excise Amendment Bill March 31 and decided to implement a total alcohol ban which came into effect on April 5. The law stipulates stringent penalties such as capital punishment for anyone producing or trading illicitly made liquor that often leads to the death of the consumer. Nitish Kumar government came to power for a third five-year term last year and during his electioneering
promised women that he would make Bihar a "dry" state. Hundreds of women's groups across the state, most of them organized under church organizations, had been agitating for a ban on alcohol, saying it was the root cause of poverty
, domestic violence and harassment of women in families. "Before the state elections, we used to say to our women, 'we will vote for those who will ban liquor.' Nitish promised it, and our women really voted him to victory," said Congregation of Jesus Sister Kiran, who runs the women's empowerment center in Kritpura near the city of Buxar. Local reports say the ban will cost the state around US$752 million worth of lost annual liquor sales tax revenue. This is Bihar's second attempt to ban alcohol after a government attempt failed some 40 years ago. Besides Bihar, there is only one other Indian state, Gujarat, which has a complete alcohol ban
. There are partial bans or restrictions in several other states.