Alcoholism : A National disaster
Uma Bharti’s proposed Statewide campaign (deferred due to political compulsion) for complete ban on alcoholism in Madhya Pradesh and death sentence to nine accused over Gopalganj hooch tragedy in Bihar, has once again fueled this sensitive issue on the National platform. Prohibition of this life-hunting drink has always been a target of freedom fighters, social reformers and family well-wishers across the world. Harmful use of alcohol claims lives, triggers diseases, causes violence & injuries and endures resultant pain & suffering.
Mahatma Gandhi was the champion of temperance movement i.e. agitation for liquor ban. He firmly advocated his mission before Nation as “Taking intoxicating liquors is almost like committing suicide, because a man or a woman who takes it and gets mad, kills his soul. Surely death of soul is worse than death of the body. Drugs & drinks are the two arms of devil where he strikes his slaves into stupefaction and intoxication. It is more a disease than a vice. The effect is not only financial loss but moral loss. Though Government earns huge revenue from it, for the betterment of the people it should be banned except used for medicinal purposes.”
In accordance with Gandhiji’s vision, Article 47 has been introduced in the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Indian Constitution declaring its intention to enforce prohibition. It endeavors States to bring about prohibition of intoxicating drinks and drugs which are injurious to health. But after independence, the provision remains incarcerated in Constitution’s pages. The State Governments across the country are violating this edict with impunity, because the liquor industry has become a powerful lobby and is a major source of revenue.
Four Indian States namely Gujarat, Bihar, Nagaland and Lakshdweep have officially banned liquor in their territories. In Bihar, some politicians, being fully aware of its drastic effect, are shamelessly making hue & cry against the legislation in the interest of influential liquor lobby. In Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Kerala, Mizoram and Tamil Nadu, although liquor is banned unfortunately later on the law was either repealed or eased.
It is need of the hour that alcohol should be prohibited in the whole country as the neighbouring States are most badly affecting the herculean efforts of dry States. The alcohol lobby should be motivated to shift their business towards “Neera”, fresh by-product of coconut, which is beneficial for health.
State Governments are increasingly relying upon revenue from alcohol consumption as it provides nearly 20% of State’s own revenue share. But, in the name of revenue collection the Governments in a democratic State cannot allow poison to be served to their people. The Governments should not be worried about revenue loss, as they have to spend more on the problems emerging due to alcoholism, such as domestic violence, suicides, anti-social behaviour, traffic accidents, psychological disorder, severe health problems of liver damage, heart disease, brain & nervous system failure, anemia, cancers, HIV/AIDS and even deaths.
Alcohol addiction is not just a threat to the person served, but to his/her entire family and society. In Tamil there is the saying “Kudi Kudiaye Kedukkam”, meaning drinks will spoil your entire family. Husband’s alcoholism overwhelms women; who emotionally burdened & finding no way out, sometimes commit suicide or set themselves on fire in a desperate bid to escape domestic harassment. The expense on liquor leads to a reduction in household income, which ultimately shrinks the quantity of food on his children’s plate, cut the nutritional level of children and makes them depressed. Drinking is a major factor in preventing low-class-impoverished people from getting ahead in life.
Alcohol is a colossal global issue and it is the seventh leading risk factor for premature death & disease. United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)-3 is concerned with ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all people globally by 2030. Its target 3.5 specially focuses on strengthening the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drugs and harmful use of alcohol.
WHO’s global status report of 2018 reveals that alcohol resulted in nearly 5.3 % of all deaths and 5.1% disability-adjusted life years worldwide. Globally, the per capita consumption of alcohol (aged 15 years and older) has been estimated at 6.4 liters. Ironically in India, there has been increasing trend of alcohol per capita consumption as 2.4 liters, 4.3 liters & 5.7 liters in 2005, 2010 &2016 respectively. More than one-fifth of alcohol production in the world is consumed by Indian people and two-thirds of alcohol consumed are unrecorded & illicit. Indians drinking habits & patterns are problematic as one-third of drinkers fall in the hazardous drinkers category.
Alcohol is not a necessity, but a fashion and just a copy of western countries. Alcoholism is anti-Constitutional, anti-National, anti-religion, anti-social and origin of numerous evils and violent crimes. It is totally against the enriched Indian culture and civilization. Although from time to time, unique anti-liquor campaigns have been organised by suffering women; but due to Government’s incognizance the situation remains grim. Production, distribution as well as consumption of alcohol is a crime and it must not be publicized particularly through movies, social media or else.
After 72 years of independence, prohibition of intoxicating drinks & drugs cannot be left to be a State subject; as alcoholism is not a State issue, but a National disaster. If we truly honour Gandhi as Father of Nation and Patel as architect of unified India, then their dreams must not be cornered.
The Central Govt should amend the Constitution for complete prohibition of alcohol as well as other intoxicating drinks all over India.
Along with prohibition, a strong and sustained campaign against it is the need of the hour. (The author is a technocrat & academician)