Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Kill the bottle

A club bar. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.Click to enlarge.

Onam Rs.34 crores (1 crore=10 million)

Christmas Rs.44 crores

New Year Rs.53 crores

These are the approximate figures of liquor sales in Kerala through the State Government stores during the last three festive occasions. They do not include the considerable quantities of alcohol sold through bars, illicit/smuggled liquor, sales by the Defence Services Canteens to serving and retired personnel and intoxicant toddy tapped from the palms.

Every year the turnover of the liquor outlets keeps increasing. This is not because of any escalation in prices. More quantity is sold. Even when the prices are hiked the quantity of spirit sales is on a high. And according to one report the demand for premium brands is growing in Kerala.

Why is the liquor consumption so high in Kerala? During normal days the average sales are reportedly Rs.15 crores. What would be the money outflow during festive seasons? We have only seen here the expenditure on spirits. There is so much more – new clothes, special food, presents, and so on. Where do the funds for all these come from?

Gulf money sent home by those who work there? Tainted or black money? Or do people of Kerala earn that much? If so, does such income reflect in the Income Tax returns/collections? Or is most of it debt financing? It is perhaps a combination of all these.

A former Director General of Police, Kerala said a few months ago that some men in the State are attracted to terrorism more for economic gain than by religious fundamentalism. This is a very pertinent point. Make money by whatever means so that there is enough to spend. A pattern has been set and people blindly try to follow that. Beg, borrow or steal to keep up with the crowd.

The State Beverages Corporation says that the record shows more quantity of liquor consumption because the number of ‘dry days’ has been reduced. The people who used to take illicit drinks on those days now buy from the official outlets.

Some blame the police for the heavy intake of alcohol in the State. To prevent driving under the influence of alcohol, police patrols are stationed near bars and clubs in the evenings. Because of the nuisance of being checked by the cops, many people keep away from such outlets. The bar owners complain that their business is drastically affected by the highly visible police presence. Some clubs have a pool of job drivers available to drive home members who drink more liquor than legally permitted.

In good clubs one rarely sees heavy consumption of spirits. Members drop in, meet friends, have a couple of drinks with some snacks over a period of time and go home. To a large extent, I suppose, it is the same pattern in bars. But now, for fear of police checking, many people buy bottles and take home where the drinking is neither measured nor controlled and probably gulping down quickly to avoid detection by family members.

Then there is the case of families where women object to alcohol being brought into the house. This restriction drives the men to bars where they quickly knock back a few pegs and rush home. That is not normal drinking. Such drinkers might consume much less if they could peacefully take limited quantities at home.

A few decades back when the constitution of The Lotus Club, Cochin was re-drafted, one of the changes suggested was that the members’ children who attained the age of 18 and were not themselves members should not be permitted to use the club facilities. This was objected to, and rightly so. The argument against the move was that the youngsters would go to who knows where if they were denied the club facilities. The age limit was raised to 25.

The point is that when there is some sort of supervision, though silent it might be, hopefully the drinker is likely to have an extent of self imposed control. It may also possibly banish the ‘kill the bottle’ or ‘finish the bottle’ instinct which seems to be the bane of many drinkers. For them, once a bottle is opened, it has to be emptied.

A better way of killing the bottle is not to buy one. But no amount of persuasion or counseling would help unless the person involved has a strong will to control or stop his drinking.

Also see:

A Vodka Story.


Nona said...

Interesting point. The best restraint is self restraint!

perumalythoma said...

That's a bit!
Couldn't have been me on my holiday.

But yes, drinking in Kerala is a bit 'desperate'.
Around Christmas, I met up with three friends from college.
One of them pulled out a bottle of whiskey.
It lasted less than 15 minutes.
And promptly, all of them discovered homes and family that awaited their immediate attention.

Do we have to see it as a vice?
Which makes men drink in desperate corners?
Almost as if they were taking a 15 minute break from fidelity and responsibility?

My dad poured me my first drink at 16.
Sat across from me.
And asked me to sip it for a half hour.
He was a big guy, so I obeyed.
Good instruction, though.

Happy Kitten said...

Ever since I read our President’s complaint that Kerala’s women are not doing enough to curb the rising alcoholism, I have been thinking and reading.. at first I thought maybe it is not only the state of Kerala which is having these stats but maybe some other states too.. but on further reading one has to agree that Kerala does come first in this aspect.. but then again the paradox… educated women in any society is supposed to create a good society and Kerala it seems is number one when it comes to female literacy… so where lies the problem.. could it be the one you pointed out? That women in Keralite households hate to see their men drinking?

Will allowing them to drink inside their own homes reduce this drinking spree? nd maybe those women who dont drink should drink too :) (think this may get the message across more clear and louder)

Or is it time to go the Gujarat way.. total prohibition?

Sorcerer said...

you said that,
even I blogged about the drinking habit in kerala.

Anand Antony said...

Moderate consumption of alcohol is not bad for health nor is it morally wrong - a fact not understood by the Catholic Bishops of Kerala. This despite the fact that our Lord himself gave his stamp of approval at the wedding at Cana. Because of the social control and the stigma attached to drinking, people who drink go to shady locations or drink in groups - a perefect receipe for anti-social behaviour. This artcile itself mentions that social drinking in clubs is not harmful. Also the response by Perumalythoma is succinct and hits the point straight.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Nona, thank you for the comment.

Abraham Tharakan said...

perumalithoma,your father gave you the right lesson about drinking. Most people who knock back liquor doesn't really know how to enjoy a drink.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Happy Kitten, you have raised a couple of pertinent points.

Neither the Gujarat way nor women drinking provide the answer. Total prohibition has failed wherever it was tried. It only helps the moonshiners to make money.

Women, at all levels of the social ladder, drinking is not so uncommon in Kerala.

Frankly I think that except when abusing and violence are involved, Kerala women really do not mind their husbands drinking.

Abraham Tharakan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Abraham Tharakan said...

Sorcerer, thank you. I must read your blog post on the subject.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Anand Antony, thank you for the comment.

In my opinion, sensible drinking is good for health and general well being. The problem with Kerala is that many people do not know what sensible drinking is.

Happy Kitten said...

As you said, sensible drinking ought to be practiced.. but how do you teach them this art?

At one end is the voice of those who want 'total prohibition' and they say there is nothing called moderate drinking.

Nebu said...

Why is the liquor consumption so high in Kerala? Where do the funds for all these come from? Gulf money sent home by those who work there? Tainted or black money? Or do people of Kerala earn that much? If so, does such income reflect in the Income Tax returns/collections? Or is most of it debt financing?

I trust that the answer to all your questions above is that pay in Kerala for all sorts of skilled and unskilled workers, be it the agricultural laborers, the carpenters, masons, plumbers, electricians to the auto rickshaw drivers including the bribes received by the Govt. employees are exorbitant. It is this money which is channelized to liquor consumption.

At least regarding pay Kerala could follow what is said in the communist manifesto. According to the Dus Capital workers are not to be paid anything more than what is necessary for their daily sustenance.

perumalythoma said...

Long article by Justice VR Krishna Iyer in The Hindu today.
On the evils of consumption and on the ethics of a state profiting from the sale of alcohol.

A man is entitled his opinion, yes.
But to blame every evil on alcohol, I guess, is a bit rant-y.

Do read, people.
Good to see the coin from every angle.

Happy Kitten said...

The pay in Kerala is higher than the rest of India.. these days one needs to pay IRS 300 for a day's work of tending the land (the daily wagers) but then should we not consider this a part of the overall development of the state too or is it only because of the money from Gulf?

And why is this money being spent more on liquor and not for further development of self.

Guess the State gives no scope for development and hence one drowns in liquor...

Nebu said...

V. R. Krishna Iyer had previously claimed that he had talked to his dead wife through a medium. Sadly, most mortals can accomplish such a thing only through the medium of alcohol. So, he should have been a bit more accommodating on his views on alcohol consumption.

perumalythoma said...

@Nebu; did he? Really?
Maybe abstinence does have its rewards!

Abraham Tharakan said...

Thank you all for the comments. Since my response is rather elaborate, I have posted an article on it today.