Do you think consumption of liquor should be prohibited? Discuss the prohibition policy followed by various states in independent India. (200 Words)

Abstinence from liquor has been regarded as a virtue from time immemorial. Keeping in mind moral and religious sensibilities and Gandhiji’s aversion to liquor, the founding fathers place Article 47 in the Indian Constitution which states that the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the use of intoxicating drinks and drugs. Being a state subject, several Indian states have at different points in time experimented with the idea of prohibition. Currently, liquor prohibition of some degree is in place in the states of Gujarat, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Lakshadweep and most recently Kerala. In addition to this, bans had been placed and subsequently revoked in various places including the erstwhile states of Madras and Bombay, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana.
Various studies indicate that experiments with prohibition rarely work. That a ban on liquor is very difficult to implement is clear from the fact that alcohol continues to be available rather easily even in the so called “dry states”. In fact, the imposition of ban has only given rise to a thriving black market. Though, prohibition is a highly emotive issue in India as it is often associated alcoholism, domestic violence, poverty and other such social evils, it is unlikely to work for three reasons:
  1. One is that state borders are porous and allow for the sale of unregulated liquor;
  2. States are reluctant to lose the large revenues they earn from the liquor industry; and
  3. Prohibition frequently comes along with moral vigilantism and amounts to a trampling of civil liberties.
Therefore, prohibition is not the answer. Solution lies in a more nuanced approach – such as controlling liquor through prices and taxation, and reducing the number of outlets – thereby reducing the demand for liquor.
The state government‘s inability to effectively enforce liquor prohibition in Manipur over the last two decades and its need for additional revenue has compelled it to mull over the option to lift the ban on alcohol in the state. How will such a decision impact the people and the state? Analyse the pro and cons of such a move keeping in mind the ground realities which exist in the state. (200 Words)
Liquor consumption is a menace pervasive in Indian society. It is a threat to individual integrity and societal wellbeing. The Manipur govt. mulling over lifting ban on consumption has raised several issues discussed viz.
  1. Liquor sale is an important source of income through excise and sales tax.
  2. Decrease in illegal sale and related activities to it.
  3. Will restore prestige of eroded legitimacy of govt. which failed to implement it in spirit.
  4. Decreased administrative and financial burden on enforcement agencies.
  1. Alcohol leads to dysfunctional and indolent youth thereby affecting GDP of the country.
  2. Perpetuate crimes like domestic violence, murder etc.
  3. Alcohol is injurious to health of the consumer which leads to health problems and ultimately adds to health budget of state.
  4. Major cause of women subjugation and reinforcement of patriarchy.
  5. Perpetuates poverty trap among lower section of society.
  6. Questions policy formulation capacity of elected representatives.
In totality mere banning liquor is a knee jerk response to deeply rooted problem. Inculcating behavioural change, mass awareness through media, civil society etc., education, women empowerment with active participation 3 tier of govt. can go a long way in this direction.
Is it the liquor or excise policy that kills the people in India? In the light of recent illicit liquor consumption related deaths, critically comment on the statement. (200 Words)
Production of illicit liquor is unethical and morally inhuman. Economically, it may produce more profits to the business groups but it has led to numerous deaths over the years. The policies and enforcement mechanism of the government has to be held responsible since people’s welfare and protection is a governments first priority.
Liquor has been seen as a revenue earning object by most state governments. Their excise policy is made to maximise revenue. People’s safety and quality of liquor is secondary. Moreover, high taxation has made standard liquor inaccessible to the large section of the poor thereby prompting them to turn towards low standard country liquor.
Governments have failed in this regard too in quality checks of these country liquor businesses. Police- Groups – Political nexus is also widespread. This makes conviction of accused or suspension of their business difficult.
The way forward is for the governments to emphasise on education and awareness of the people. Make them be more vigilant while consuming liquor. Formalisation of these businesses by reducing taxes. Periodic quality checks. Enhancing punishment.
Most importantly making women an inherent part of this strategy. Community association with women to safeguard the locality. The best solution however in line with our DPSP would be to ban liquor consumption but it requires immense political will.
Since 2001, illicit hooch has killed over 700 people across India in 18 recorded incidents. Critically examine the causes of these deaths, repetition of these incidents and measures required to stop them. Do you think complete prohibition of sale and consumption of alcohol can be a solution? Substantiate. (200 Words)
Hooch is illicit liquor that is cheaper and more potent than the state-regulated alcohol. It is often adulterated with methanol, which is highly toxic. Many incidences of deaths caused due to consumption of hooch have occurred and is a serious problem.
  1. Hooch is preferred by the low income group since it is cheaper and more potent than regulated liquor. Lack of regulation of hooch sale and No/little awareness – Sale is unregulated and the target is poor and illiterate people (mostly slum dwellers) which makes it difficult to stop the re-occurrences due to lack of awareness and regulation.
  2. A few states and some districts within states have banned sale of alcohol in order to adhere to the Gandhian principle of prohibition. However, such administrative action leads to smuggling and increased consumption of hooch.
  3. Many strong local politicians are also implicated in this racquet and hence, the state governments have found it difficult to curb it. Political-bureaucratic-criminal nexus – This results in an organized crime and due to political patronage, the nexus is usually shielded.
  4. Lack of stringent provisions – Accused easily get the bail if arrested and get back to illegal business
  5. Very high ‘sin taxes’ on regulated alcohol makes illegal liquor and hooch very attractive for consumers and promotes smuggling and adulteration.
Measures to Curb:
  1. In 1992, Parthasarthy committee was set up in Maharashtra to prevent misuse of methanol. Its recommendations included use of foul smelling and tasting additives to make it undrinkable, streamlining laws etc. These should be implemented taking into account the current conditions.
  2. Stringent regulation and law enforcement – There should be stringent provisions in the law (with non-bailable of-fence) for such crimes. Local intelligence should be  strengthened. Surprise raids by excise dept. should be conducted to confiscate illicit liquor periodically.
  3. Strengthening customs and revenue departments to prevent smuggling.
  4. Strengthening the law against offenders to ensure that bail is not easily granted to increase deterrence value.
  5. Gradual widening of tax net to include country liquor and toddy.
  6. Awareness – Vulnerable population should be informed about the harm caused by such liquor. NGOs, media and civil society can play a constructive role.
With prohibition enshrined as a desirable goal in the constitution, the usual response to such tragedies is banning of liquor. However, that has to be seen in the context of balancing revenue for the state. Also it needs to be kept in mind that such tragedies are not caused due to alcohol which is regulated by the state. Rather, it is already illegally manufactured or smuggled alcohol which is the root cause of such tragedies. Incidences of such tragedies in Gujarat, ostensibly a ‘dry state’ prove that banning alcohol is no solution. A radical solution would be to gradually legalise country liquor, bringing it within the tax net and making it easier to regulate. Till that time, the government can only strengthen customs, revenue and enforcement divisions to ensure that such tragedies do not reoccur



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