Millennium Post

Why blame it on Liquor

One-fifth of India’s 1.2 billion people live in states where alcohol consumption is banned or restricted. Gujarat, Nagaland, Manipur and Bihar are the dry states in India. Kerala is moving towards it in a phased manner.

The real reason behind going dry is to dissuade the poor to invest their hard-earned daily wage in feeding their family and better their standard of living. Country liquor, which was easily available at cheaper rates and is extremely harmful, was being consumed by the lower working class, who spend most of their money on liquor, leaving their families hungry and deprived of basic amenities. 

Once the sale and purchase of alcohol were banned, the states took a hit in their tax collection--as it amounted to a significant proportion of the total tax collection--but it was welcomed by the women and families of the poor. 

This is not the first time where India’s stand accounts to such a massive one, relating to social consequences of alcohol consumption, such as alcoholism, indebtedness and domestic violence.
For example, ruins of prohibition have been  practised in States such as Maharashtra, though the law tends to realistically look the other way; Gujarat, of course, continues to remain dry.

However, there is a case against prohibition as well. As per our country’s history, with the banning of sale and consumption of alcohol, there has not been monitored scenario against its use, hence the prohibition policies have somehow failed. 

On the contrary, it has only criminalised the activity with terrible consequences for individual health, economy and administration. Alternative sources of revenue must be found if prohibition can virtuously, magically transform the society. Prohibition of alcohol and other drugs has led to the most profitable criminal systems in history. The unchecked manufacturing and illegitimate fake-liquor racket is a threat to the lives of individuals.

Over a quarter of its revenue comes from taxes on the sale of alcohol and excise on manufacturing spirits. This income has enabled successive regimes to splurge on social sector schemes, especially the trademark programme to supply free rice to nearly all ration card holders, distribute consumer goods and maintain its pioneering nutritious mid-day meal scheme for all children in government and anganwadis.

That case has, however, not been made. The trend towards prohibition in India has cheered many women’s rights groups as mentioned before,  who say alcohol abuse contributes to domestic violence leading to destitution. But some may argue that liquor is still available from the state’s black market. But as it is sold black, its price is inflated and is out of a poor man’s reach. 

Whereas the poor can use that money to provide their families with a better life instead of being an alcoholic, on top being a regular abuser.Looking at Bihar now makes it clear that by way of the notification, issued in exercise of power, the state government has not prohibited possession of liquor by anyone unless such a notification is published, possession of foreign liquor would not become an offence punishable under the Act.

It is perhaps the extension of the Gandhian spirit of the Directive Principles of State Policy in the Constitution that initiates public advocacy of moderation which includes stealing, liquor mafias, illegitimate liquor, and a complicit police. The decision would result in out of control smuggling from neighbouring states such as Nepal. 

There might be a possible abuse of power by the men working at the top notch. But Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is said to make sure that the officer undergoes harsh punishments along with the alcoholics.
When Kumar embarked the campaign to enforce prohibition, the people at the other end pointed out to the court, claiming that the notification has not declared possession of liquor as illegal in violation of their own.

Even the existing beer plants and IMFL distilleries will need to send their supplies to other states with immediate effect. Interestingly, the state’s crime graph has fallen noticeably since the ban, resulting in a decreased number of road rage, road accidents, and cases of domestic violence.

The two-week-old Gopalganj tragedy is still considered very critical. With the excise department seizing 140 liquor bottles, the whole case turned out to be a setback for Nitish’s incumbent government.
After the incident, the prohibition drive has stretched Bihar’s depleted police force. From law and order duties to routine investigations, court duties to clearing traffic jams, there are a few police officers who think of the anti-liquor drive as an added burden.

The minimum punishment for violation of the Bihar Excise Act is a seven-year jail term whereas maximum punishment is a death sentence or a fine of Rs 10 lakh, which further adds to if liquor is consumed or sold in the house then all adult family members may face action.

The unchecked manufacturing and illegitimate fake liquor racket will be a threat to the lives of individuals, especially the poor section. Although Bihar is familiar with such instances, Kumar and his new regime have assured that he would not roll back the prohibition, underlining the commitment saying “People will now use the money invested in liquor to add nutrition to their plates, avoid disease and economic ruination”.

Since independence, India has gone through periodic phases of teetotaling. Alcohol has been a very integral part of world culture and also Indian culture, to say so. (Remember gods drinking somras in Doordarshan serials?) .

Prohibition of alcohol and other drugs has led to the most profitable criminal systems in history. As observed by many in India, underworld made millions smuggling luxury goods for the rich (in 1990’s). Prohibition and banning of substance is never the ultimate solution. Instead, governments should try to educate and regulate the ones involved in such acts. 

It all comes down that one question: Can a liquor ban alone ensure the development of a state?

States where alcohol is ban

Gujarat : After its formation in 1960 out of Bombay State, continued the ban and still enforces it to this day. So basically, the manufacture, sale, consumption and storage of alcohol is illegal in the state.

Nagaland :Under the Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act, 1989, no person(s) is allowed to transport, sell, consume or manufacture liquor. Publishing of advertisements on liquor in newspapers are also prohibited under the Act. A jail term of three years and fine is the penalty for the illegal import of liquor into the state.

Lakshwadeep : This is one union territory where liquor is not widely available and a complete ban is in place. There are reports that a single island called Bangaram has access to liquor, but it could not be verified.

Kerala : The fight between the government and the powerful bar owners lobby even led to a major scandal in which several ministers were allegedly bribed in order to procure licenses for opening liquor shops. The top court in December 2015, finally backed the state’s liquor policy restricting the sale of alcohol only to five-star hotels and establishments. More than 700 bars were reportedly shut down in the wake of the policy.

Bihar: As many as 4,167 people were arrested in August in Bihar for violating the new Bihar prohibition law, with a total of 13,839 arrests made and 11,679 litre of foreign liquor and 92,291.47 litre of country spirit seized over the entire period. August’s arrest and seizure was the highest under the new liquor law since it came into force in April.

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