If you are seeking Holy Communion in Bihar, you may have to go through the ritual without being blessed with wine.
The state government has cancelled a special licence given to churches to manufacture sacramental wine for the purposes of blessing during prayer services. Following the prohibition on alcohol since April this year, a relief was given to churches out of respect of religious practices, which has been reversed now. The same provision had not been extended to other religions, raising allegations of discrimination.
The Telegraph quoted the excise commissioner Aditya Kumar Das expressing fears of such exceptions being misused. "As far as rituals are concerned, different religions, including Hinduism have them, but have stopped in the wake of prohibition," he said. "It will not be correct to be involved in this conflict. Sacramental wine licence was in conflict with total prohibition." Church authorities have reacted with shock to the news and have decided to appeal to the state government to reconsider the decision.
In an earlier phase of prohibition, from 1977 to 1980, holy wine had been exempted for services. Most of the 150 churches in Bihar got wine used during the mass from a winery run at the Xavier's Teachers' Training Institute (XTTI) campus at Digha in Patna. Since the 1960s, it has been producing and bottling the liquor and supplying it to authorised personnel in churches across the state.
The amount of wine used during services is as little as 5-15 ml, incapable of causing inebriation. The Bihar government had enforced the ban with severe penalties attached to it. Not only is consuming or keeping wine at home prohibited, dealers of spurious liquor who may have caused death by selling their product could even be slapped the death penalty. The decision was expected to result in loss of business worth Rs 4,000 crore for the government every year.