Prohibition in Kerala: Hungama Kyu Barpa

Devendra Budakoti

The latest prohibition policy announcement made by the state of Kerala has evoked much debate and discussion in the media and also in the social network sites.

Why this Hungama in case of Kerala state, when we already have a long established one in Gujrat and also in North-eastern state of Nagaland, Mizorma and Manipur. Is it because the state of Kerala has 100% literacy and all its Health indicators are best in the country. Kerala’s development history and pattern has been a matter of debate and discussions in academic circle. Kerala is also considered to be having politically and socially conscious citizens in the country.  What has happened in Kerala that such a policy decision has been taken by the political establishment? Many reasons have been given from harmful health outcome to social problems emerging in Kerala. However many agree from experiences elsewhere that such policy decisions are bound to fail as the sale of alcohol will go underground and lead to corruption at various levels. In such a scenario, prohibition as remedy to the problem will only add to the existing problems faced by the state and society.

The World Health Organization in its report, ‘Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health-2014’ states that, “The protection of the health of populations by preventing and reducing the harmful use of alcohol is a public health priority, and one of the objectives of the World Health Organization (WHO) is to reduce the health and social burden caused by the harmful use of alcohol. The Global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol defines “harmful use” as drinking that causes detrimental health and social consequences for the drinker, the people around the drinker and society at large, as well as the patterns of drinking that are associated with increased risk of adverse health outcomes. The vision of this strategy is to improve the health and social outcomes of individuals, families and communities, considerably reducing morbidity and mortality due to harmful use of alcohol and their ensuing social consequences.”

While it is reported that Alcohol consumption has caused health and social problems, it is also known that negative effects of prohibition included wide-scale sale of spurious and cheap liquor which can cause health problems and deaths, the rise of organised crime and bootlegging due to the growth of a black market for alcohol. In the North East, Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur, there’s a total ban on liquor sale and consumption in these three states. In the land of Mahatma’s birth, Gujrat, it is said that despite prohibition, mafia gangs and corrupt officials have ensured regular supply of liquor.

Regarding Uttarakhand, Padam Sri Prof. Dr. Shekhar Pathak, a well known historian and a social activist wrote, “It is a bitter irony that while army recruitment marked the advent of liquor in Uttarakhand, youth are now rejected by the military on ground of ill health. Prohibition by itself is not adequate to eradicate alcoholism as a social evil; on the contrary, it may have certain adverse consequences.”

Imagine if any Government in Uttarakhand tries to bring in Prohibition policy; will it ever succeed? With a large number of the retired ex-servicemen all over Uttarakhand, who have Military canteen services to get subsidized liquor, along with the defence and Para Military deployed in the state in peace and field stations, which are a source of liquor availability, albeit in an clandestinely manner to the civilian population. Besides this there is already a well knit underground system of smuggling cheap liquor from other states, particularly, well know as ‘Chandigarh Brand’. In the tribal pockets the local liquor made for family consumption is already available openly to one and all. Not to forget the local liquor brewed by other sundry entrepreneurs in rural areas. In this given situation, in a state with no prohibition, alcohol is readily and easily available outside the state excise network. The system is already in place to defeat any prohibition policy in Uttarakhand.!

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