[My post Kill the bottle attracted some comments which cannot be dealt with briefly. Therefore I am presenting my response by way of this post.]
Like the case of the oldest profession, drinking is not something that can be effectively stopped by law. That is why prohibition has been a failure wherever it was tried. That includes the Soviet Union and the
But even after prohibition was scrapped, Sales Tax (including on liquor) continues. As a result of this and other ad valorem levies, every time the government increases the price of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL – whiskey, brandy, rum etc) the revenue earnings of the exchequer increase. Those who cannot afford the higher cost turn to illicit brew.
Let us take a brief look at the ‘total prohibition’ in
I believe that in Ahmedabad you can place a telephone order with the local bootlegger for the stuff you want and it would be delivered to you in half an hour. Quite a luxury, I must say. Two separate commissions, one headed by Justice MN Miabhoy and the other by Justice AA Dave have concluded that prohibition has not been really effective in
Mr. Narendra Modi, the Cief Minister of
The argument that consumption of alcohol is against Indian culture is incongruous. From Vedic times, the drink Soma, and liquor obtained by fermenting grains and fruits were consumed by the people of
On all counts, ‘total prohibition’ is impractical and would do more damage than good. Telling people not to drink would have no effect. Alcohol is not bad per se, but the abuse of it is. Therefore the objective should be to prevent excessive drinking. Perhaps the only way to achieve this is by creating awareness of the damages alcohol can cause and on how to drink if one wants to go ahead nevertheless. I am not talking about ‘smoking can kill you’ kind of publicity but something more intense and meaningful.
If a man walks into a bar and orders beer by the peg someone is sure to tell him that is not the way the stuff is to be consumed. Different types of alcohol are to be taken in different ways. A simple example is beer and hard liquor – the former can be gulped while the other stuff is to be sipped. I have seen many people drink whiskey in the manner that beer should be taken. Obviously they think that is the way it should be done.
Most Indians start drinking on the sly. They and their companions are equally ignorant of what to drink, when, and how. They are usually guided by what is shown in the movies where macho heroes knock back undiluted liquor. Or they blindly follow the example of others who are equally uninformed.
Let people know how different types of drinks should be consumed and in what quantities. Explain to them the physical and economic damages excess consumption of alcohol can cause. Drive home the fact that a drunk has no macho image. Let them know that sex after heavy drinking can be most frustrating for both partners. Tell them that the capacity to hold alcohol differs from person to person.
Persuade the people to drink in moderation, preferably at home. Wives should be happy to keep the husbands home; pour them couple of drinks and see that they sip it slowly and also ensure that they eat something along with it. Parents should be happy if their grown up children stick to beer or an occasional hard drink instead of turning to drugs.
A properly planned and executed awareness campaign would require large expenditure. How is it to be funded? Surely the liquor manufacturers can be roped in to contribute. In the long run it would only help their business. Part of the revenue from the duties and taxes on liquor that the government collects can be set apart for this drive.
But first of all let us be aware of a basic fact of life – prohibition is big business for some people. For that matter, even pricing the liquor high is inviting the moonshiners and bootleggers and smugglers to enter the hooch trade.
Also see Drunk on a wasted road