PATNA, March 10. — Alcohol sales in Patna have rocketed to nearly one litre per person per month making booze almost more readily available than fresh drinking water. While nearly 80 percent of Patna’s 20 lakh population still battle to find safe water each, an official report reveals a total of 18 lakh litres of liquor was sold last month ~ double the amount sold in the same month last year.
Of that sum, 12.05 lakh litres was local liquor and 3.05 lakh litres was foreign liquor, compared to 6.25 lakh litres of local liquor, 1.87 lakh litres of foreign liquor and 50,000 litres of beer sold in February 2006. Yet only 1.62 lakh of residents have a domestic water connections, according to the chief engineer of the Patna Water Board, Mr Ram Kishore Mahato. Encouraged by the growing demand for alcohol, the Bihar government is hatching plans for liquor shops to serve snacks. Sources in the government said the Excise and Prohibition Department is now working on a plan to arrange proper “sitting and eating” facilities at every liquor stall in the district, which could increase sales further. Officials claim 325 million litres of water is supplied through 85 water supplies centres in Patna every day to meet the daily requirement of 215 million litres.
However, the city’s 55-year-old pipes, which reports claim have sprouted more than 350 leaks, mean much of that water is squandered on its trip around the city. The supply that does reach its destination is often contaminated, causing water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, jaundice, typhoid and gastroenteritis which are proliferating in Patna.
The Union rural development ministry has expressed concern over the state government’s failure to provide drinking water for the masses. According to an official report, last year the Nitish Kumar government had managed to set up water facilities at only five hamlets against a target of 515 and at only 350 rural schools against a target of 6245.
This year it could be even worse. According to reports the Centre has expressed displeasure over the state government’s failure to submit monthly reports under the national rural potable water quality vigilance and inspection programme.