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'World's longest' human chain against booze

January 21, 2017 20:53 IST

11,292 km. 20 million (Nitish Kumar says 30 million) Biharis. 45 minutes.

IMAGE: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar along with Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Yadav and others at the human chain in support of prohibition at the Gandhi Maidan in Patna, January 21. Photograph: PTI Photo

The people of Bihar made history on Saturday by forming the 'world's longest human chain' in support of prohibition and de-addiction in the state.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Yadav and his two sons -- Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav and Health Minister Tej Pratap Yadav -- joined the human chain at the Gandhi Maidan in Patna, where the main function was held.

The 45 minute-long human chain started at 12:15 pm when Nitish Kumar floated colourful balloons, and ended at 1 pm.

The chief minister joined hands with Lalu Prasad on one side and state assembly Speaker Vijay Kumar Chaudhary on the other to begin the chain of people to express support for prohibition.

Legislative Council Chairman Awdesh Narayan Singh, state Congress president and Minister Ashok Choudhary, Nationalist Congress Party General Secretary Tariq Anwar, MP, ministers and legislators held each other's hand at the beginning of the chain, which branched to different directions to stretch across Bihar.

IMAGE: Children form the human chain in Patna. Photograph: M I Khan

The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which lent support to the human chain, joined the queue in Siwan, where the BJP's two-day state executive committee meeting began on Saturday.

BJP leaders Sushil Kumar Modi, Union Minister of State Ramkripal Yadav, Leader of the Opposition in the Bihar assembly Prem Kumar, party national spokesman Shahnawaz Hussain and Janardan Singh Sigriwal, the party MP from Maharajganj, joined the human chain in Siwan, north Bihar.

IMAGE: Nitish Kumar meets children forming the human chain. Photograph: PTI Photo

The CM, Lalu and other leaders stood in line to form a map of Bihar at the Gandhi Maidan.

A picture of liquor bottle with a cross sign was drawn in the middle of the map to give the message against alcohol.

Nearly 20 million Biharis, including large numbers of school and college students and women, took part in the human chain.

A team from the Limca Book of Records was in Patna to take note of the 'world record' that was being created.

Bihar was written in the middle of the map so that a clear picture of the event was captured by an Indian Space Research Organisation satellite, drones and helicopters.

IMAGE: The 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, and others take part in the human chain in Bodh Gaya. Photograph: PTI Photo

Five satellites, Indian and foreign, captured the unique spectacle of men, women and children of all ages in colourful dress, holding hands for the cause.

Besides, four trainer aircraft, two helicopters and over 40 drones were deployed to capture the human chain.

The human chain is estimated to have covered a distance of 11,292 km.

The previous record for the world's longest human chain is 1,050 km, which was formed in Bangladesh in 2004.

"It was beyond expectation," Nitish Kumar said, adding, "As per reports reaching from across the state, more than three crore (over 30 million) citizens participated in the human chain programme."

IMAGE: Security personnel provides water to a child standing in the human chain in Patna. Photograph: M I Khan

The 'unexpected' rush of participants resulted in an increase in the distance on the determined route of the human chain to 11,400 km, the chief minister said.

Initially, it was estimated that more than 20 million Biharis would participate in the human chain over a distance of 11,292 km.

"Bihar's population at present would be between 11 to 12 crore (110 million to 120 million) and out of this more than 3 crore coming on the streets to form a human chain clearly shows that the people of Bihar have taken a vow against liquor," the CM said.

Asked if the state government would stake a claim to the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest human chain in the world, Nitish Kumar said, "Why shall we make any claim? If Guinness book has to remain Guinness book, it itself will take notice of this congregation of people."

Choudhary, whose education department organised the human chain programme, told reporters that it was the biggest social congregation of people in the country after Independence.

Photograph: M I Khan

Bihar has witnessed a complete ban on alcohol since April 2016.

Tabishi Sinha, a student of the DAV BSEB school in Patna, hailed the event to express a strong resolve against liquor.

"It's historic that students have sent a loud and clear message of 'no' to alcohol," said Tabishi, whose school stood at the stretch from the chief minister's house to the J D women's college.

Photograph: PTI Photo

Ayesha Sayeed, a student of Notre Dame school, who stood in line near the Kurji More in Patna, felt, "we are becoming part of a great social revolution."

Women formed the bulk of the human chain in Patna and elsewhere.

The BJP, which had decided to participate in the human chain programme, said it was against liquor, but would continue to raise its voice against stringent clauses in the new excise law like the arrest of all adults in the event of recovery of a liquor bottle in a house, a community fine and seizure of the premises if even an empty liquor bottle was found.

IMAGE: Women in the human chain in Patna. Photograph: M I Khan

The Nitish Kumar government imposed a total ban on liquor in the state on April 5 last year.

Since then, more than 16,000 people have been arrested on charges of either consuming or transporting liquor in the state.

Media reports suggest that the BJP, which has been vocal against the liquor law, came out in support of it after Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Nitish Kumar on prohibition at the Prakash Parva event in Patna on January 5.

Talking to reporters while standing in the human chain in Siwan, Sushil Kumar Modi, the former deputy chief minister, said, "We have always stood in support of the liquor ban. It's due to pressure created by the BJP that the state government clamped a total ban on alcohol."

Last week, Sushil Modi said, the Bihar government announced it would shut all manufacturing units of liquor in the state from the next financial year only because of BJP pressure.

'To ensure participation of students in the human chain,' Sushil Modi later tweeted, 'coercion was used as a result of which 12 students fainted during the event in different parts of the state.'

He also slammed the state government for 'shoddy' arrangements for the event, claiming that an ambulance was not present at some venues, while officials in some hospitals were found to be negligent.

'Two children fell in a pond,' he said, without identifying the place.

The state government, Sushil Modi, said, had failed to keep its assurance given to the Patna high court about foolproof security and medical arrangements and not to apply force for participation in the event.

'Using lakhs of children for hours for the sake of creating a record is unfortunate,' the BJP leader said.

Photograph: PTI Photo

The 11,292-km human chain covered national highways, state highways and branch roads within districts in Bihar.

While national highways and state highways form 3,007 km of the human chain, sub-routes extended the chain by 8,285 km.

Additional reportage: M I Khan in Patna

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