Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday played down apprehensions of a financial loss caused by prohibition and said the state, instead, had witnessed a surge in domestic and foreign tourist arrivals.
"Against 1.69 crore domestic tourists in 2015, the figure was 2.85 crore in 2016, a 68 per cent increase," he told reporters in his state Legislative Assembly chambers here quoting from official figures.
Likewise, against 9.23 lakh foreign tourists in 2015, the state played host to 10.10 lakh foreign tourists in 2016, a 9 per cent hike, Kumar added.
He quoted statistics to dispel the apprehensions of loss to the state exchequer due to the implementation of prohibition in the state in April, 2016.
Kumar said the state accrued a loss of around Rs 1,000 crore in revenue collection in 2016-17 and maintained that this was not due to prohibition but mostly on account of demonetisation and other factors.
The JD(U) chief has on several occasions claimed that instead of an estimated annual excise duty loss of about Rs 5,000 crore due to the liquor ban, the state had gained "double the amount" as people were investing the money saved from alcohol consumption on good food, clothes, furniture etc.
Kumar has been visiting various places in the country on invitation from organisers of liquor ban campaigns.
On April 21, he was at Bharananganam in Kerala to address the 18th state-level Assembly of Kerala Catholic Bishops' Conferences Temperance Movement. On April 22, addressing a function in Mumbai, he had listed the virtues of not drinking.
"Those who attended the event in Kerala were immensely impressed when I told them in details about the implementation of the liquor ban in Bihar, which has transformed the social environment and resulted in economic gains," said the chief minister.
Kumar, who led the world's longest human chain, involving over four crore people, in support of prohibition in Patna on January 21, also criticised the Centre and various state governments for "finding ways to denotify national and state highways" to work a way around a Supreme Court direction that there should be no liquor outlet within 500 metres of any highway.