Supreme Court’s decision to ban alcohol along the highway is worth a loud applause. But only time can tell as how long the Court can stand against its aftermath and the liquor lobby in India.
The tug of war between the government and the alcohol lobby in India. While the alcohol has always been one of the driving force of income in many states, from hospitality and tourism to bringing major income returns to the state government, the evils of alcohol consumption has forced the government to rethink its attitude and policy towards it from time to time. Both Central and State governments have tried to gain from the people’s addiction by levying high tax on the liquor and cigarettes. In fact for many State governments like Kerala it is one of the prime source of income.
However, governments are forced to rethink their attitude in terms of sale of alcohol, often at the cost of sacrificing its prime revenue source, and more than often, the popularity, when it comes to being responsible for public well-being and health. However, the state governments have been smart about handling the probability of the declining popularity by appeasing the mass emotionally. Gujarat government has stringent policy against alcohol, going to the extent of fixing death penalty if found guilty of its manufacture or sale. But the government appeared to have softened the blow by convincing the people that anti-alcohol policy is necessary on the behalf of one the greatest sons of Gujarat, Mahatma Gandhi.
Kerala had joined the list of dry state by banning the alcohol from the state. The decision of this state had surprised many as tourism and liquor had been two of its government chief revenue generator. With alcohol out of its equation, the government had to incur huge losses, not to mention the daunting effect it had on tourism. Later on Kerala was joined by Bihar in the bandwagon to become the country’s dry states.
What these states have achieved by banning alcohol, is far from the ideal target that was set by them. In spite of stringent liquor ban in Gujarat, there is little dearth of them as alcohol is available in the state, if you know the right place to ask for them. While rich pilfer (of course, in a gentleman’s way) from the Army canteen by paying exorbitant price, the country mad liquor is easily available for the poor. Kerala government while have banned bars and restaurants and local toddy shop from selling alcohol, it is rampantly and secularly sold by the State owned beverages stores. While these beverage outlets have become a major revenue magnet for the State, the alcohol became elusive of many who cannot afford either to stand in line or have the money to pay for them. The result is, the consumption increase in the narcotic drugs among the students and youngsters.
The narcotic drugs being available easily and cheaply than the alcohol have garnered huge fan base amongst the youth. This let has led to serious physical and mental health concerns in last two years throughout the state. Besides the massive inflow of drugs, the inferior grade alcohol is being smuggled from the neighboring states including Tamil Nadu, creating health concerns and security trepidation in Kerala. Bihar too has been witness the same story with citizens smuggling cheaper and inferior liquors from neighboring Nepal, putting at risk, the life of alcohol drinkers.
The alcohol ban in the states stand testimony that mere prohibition does not become the solution to the alcohol problem. It simply encourages the people on the road to deception and worse health hazards. With Supreme Court ordering the liquor ban along the national highways, there is inadvertent chance of people to cheat law and invite greater health issues; like carrying the alcohols from the cities and drinking while driving, instead of stopping for a drink or the driver falling prey to the country made liquor instead of from the standard and safe bar.
What both the Court and government needs is to bring much more comprehensible suitable plan to tackle the alcoholism. Banning the alcohol merely makes it more attractive of the youth which are always in look out for the new thrills. The government seriously needs to adopt more applicable approach In this case. Instead of simply banning the alcohol, it would be wiser and more effective if the government tightened the punishment criteria to more pragmatic ones (than doling out capital sentence for the manufacturing liquor).
Along with banning the alcohol, the illicit manufactures and sellers should be dealt with iron hand. But these can be possible when the government is ready to let go its dependence on the liqueur revenue. The day the government and its officials becomes free from the clutches of alcohol generated income, the campaign against it will truly begin.