Underlining need of a liquor policy Neutralising Quick Five
Rare it is for The Sangai Express to hum a line in the same tune with the State Government, but the September 21, 2022 decision to do away with prohibition should be seen in the backdrop of the ground reality. Refusing to acknowledge the reality would amount to turning a blind eye to the truth and in such a case it is only society which stands to lose in the long run. For full 30 years prohibition was in force here after the Manipur Liquor Prohibition Bill was enacted in 1991 but there is nothing to suggest that alcohol consumption declined. On the other hand, it only succeeded in driving the liquor trade underground and in the 30 years that prohibition was in force, a sort of a liquor cartel emerged. A cartel that is powerful and influential and as some folks who belong to the high heeled class were apt to put it, they have had the finest Scotch and high end Whisky at the social dos of those who are in position of power and influence. So much for prohibition and perhaps nothing underlines this point better than the findings of the National Family Health Survey, which in 2022 put Manipur at the fifth spot in alcohol consumption across the country. It is in taking cognizance of the reality that the State Government has set up an expert committee to outline a liquor policy so that the sale and consumption of alcohol can at best be regulated. Obvious that regulation would not be possible if the liquor trade is driven underground, which prohibition had done in the 30 years it has been in force here. The liquor policy is awaited and as the findings of the expert committee put it during a high level meeting convened on April 8, some of the local brew were found to contain toxic chemicals, much more than the Indian Made Foreign Liquor and this has taken a heavy toll on the habitual drinkers as no quality is maintained in producing the local brews. Adulteration is one, which the expert committee pointed out and this should be understood not only within the context of locally brewed Yu, but also in the context of the Yungang produced in some dingy places and which are smuggled in here. Prohibition could also be a big factor behind the recent busting of an illegally set up joint which was found to have produced some of the better known Whisky and Rum brands. To neutralise the liquor cartel and the seedy joints producing illegal, probably highly adulterated bottled Whisky and Rum, a liquor policy may just be what the doctor would prescribe and the sooner the Government comes out with such a policy, the better it would be for everyone, including the State exchequer.
Driving the liquor trade underground should be understood in its right perspective. It was after prohibition came into force that liquor joints started sprouting in many localities of Imphal. A joint, which is just a few minutes walk, means a place is there for all habitual drinkers to just go and gulp a peg or two or three or four down, just before dinner is being served. Observe any social dos, such as when an Utsav is held, and one can surely see many heading towards the leikai joints for a quick peg or two before having lunch. In fact such a practise is so common that a few words have gained currency, and quick five is a term which everyone must be familiar with, whether one drinks or is a teetotaller. The emergence of leikai joints must be viewed against the findings of the National Family Health Survey which has put Manipur at the unenviable 5th spot as the State with the highest consumption of liquor. Alcohol sold surreptitiously without any regulation on its production, without any license is a far worse proposition than regulating the sale of alcohol. This is the bottomline and this is the reason why The Sangai Express has felt it proper to hum the line in the same tune as the Government.