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On prohibition

On prohibition

Earlier this week, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh announced plans to move towards total prohibition of alcohol. Reports indicate that the alcohol ban will be put in place in a phased manner, starting with villages having a population of 3,000 and more. This announcement comes days after Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan hinted that the state would implement a total ban on alcohol in a phased manner. The MP government is already closing down all liquor shops situated within a radius of five kilometres from the banks of Narmada. "In the next phase, the liquor stores will not be allowed to open in residential localities, near educational institutes or religious places," Chouhan said. At present, Bihar and Gujarat are the only states that have a total ban on alcohol in place. States like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh had also sought to implement such a measure but failed. As a matter of policy, prohibition has never quite worked. The standard argument issued by those in defence of prohibition is based on the directive principles of state policy (DPSP) written into the Constitution. According to Article 47, "The State shall endeavour to bring about

According to Article 47, "The State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health." Unlike fundamental rights, DPSP is not enforceable in a court of law. These principles are only meant to act as guidelines when legislatures frame laws. While heavy consumption of alcohol does result in serious health problems and significant social costs, the kind of bans issued by the courts and state governments are counterproductive. Many studies contend that prohibition results in a significant drop in crucial revenue, the formation of mafias with illegal sales and outright corruption. Other ways to curb drinking are higher taxes, limiting the construction of outlets and drinking places, and banning the sale of arrack or hooch in plastic pouches. If the rationale for prohibition is to prevent those from low-income households from spending their hard-earned money on liquor, then the state would be well-advised to improve governance and enable job creation. In Andhra Pradesh, the measure resulted in the rise of wealthy politicians, who stood to benefit from its illegal sale. The road to disaster is paved with good intentions.

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