Here’s both sides of the alcohol ban argument (in light of what happened in Bihar)

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Until Bihar passed the prohibition law, Gujarat was the only other major Indian state that had this in place (others being Nagaland and parts of Manipur; source). Let us put together the logic supporting alcohol ban as well as the reason why a ban like this makes little sense.

Logic supporting alcohol ban

  • It is proven that alcohol consumption, over long term, negatively affects our health. Alcohol is also known to be addictive. And while these are issues that impact us individually, when we get drunk, and lose control, the suffering spreads to others (from simple fights to careless driving to rape to domestic violence and so on and so forth). Therefore in public interest, alcohol consumption, once made illegal, should theoretically help its citizens live healthier, bring down their expenditure, and reduce negative social consequences from drunk folks losing control.

Why alochol ban makes little sense

  •  Think of this – those who want to drink, will get their bottle of beer or whiskey or anything else from the black market anyway – unless the state is super strict on the black market. Going by precedence, states are not strict enough. In Gujarat (where as we know, alcohol has been banned since ages), huge amounts of bootlegging, pilfering and smuggling of illicit liquor goes on. (Source). One can guess the reason – to ban something you just need to pass a law. But to tackle the resulting black market, you need additional resources and money. And there already are a million other things to keep the police and other departments busy all the time (genuine crimes and offenses). The bottomline is –  a ban will have little impact on the eventual consumption, without equally effective measures to curb the black market as well as without sustainable and effective anti drinking campaigns to genuinely bring down the demand for alcohol. There is a reason why partial or complete liquor bans have already failed in Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Mizoram and Manipur in the past.
  • Alcohol ban has failed outside India too. The US experimented with prohibition way back in 1920. It soon found out that more people were drinking alcohol than before (we wish we could get hold of similar data from Gujarat). The country obviously suffered revenue loss, worsened by the additional cost of enforcing the ban itself. There was a well-developed black market of liquor (just like it is in Gujarat) and the number of people indulging in “illegal trade” skyrocketed. (Source)
  • In the specific context of Bihar, hospitals and clinics have reported a sudden rise in the admission of alcoholics who are facing withdrawal symptoms. To tackle this, the Bihar government proposed setting up alcohol de-addiction centres in all the districts of the state. But it could be a while before the infrastructure is up and running, and the state’s hospitals and clinics are able to efficiently cope with the pressure. (Source). Two people already died few days ago, apparently of withdrawal symptom (source).
  • Business around alcohol generates employment  – many will now need to find new jobs. Any state (or country) which goes ahead with prohibition policy should also try to quantify the economic loss from this side effect – both in the short term and long term.

We at Neutral News are neither for nor against prohibition in a state. The thought is undoubtedly noble, but the question remains: is the administrative machinery of a state equal to the task? We simply want to present both sides of the story and leave it to you to decide.

Original post by Neha Kirpal, edited by Amrit Vatsa; feature image by Amrit Vatsa

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2 thoughts on “Here’s both sides of the alcohol ban argument (in light of what happened in Bihar)

  1. Poonam Kirpal / April 13, 2016 at 11:45 am

    There are always two sides to a coin. However in this case the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. The track record of the state of Bihar is very dismal. The average citizen is unable to cope with the beaurocracy, corruption and disorder. The poor victimised citizen takes to alcohol as an escape. Now that availability and cost of procuring liquorj will be a strain,he may look for alternatives that may be less detrimental to his health and family life. I am sure people from the middle and lower socio economic strata especially women must be applauding the decision.

  2. The ban on alcohol in India has always been a political and populist measure. In case of Bihar, the promise was made by the current chief minister during his election campaign. In his earlier terms as the CM, he never talked about it. An immediate and horrific fallout of such a ban in a state is not only smuggling, but the hooch tragedy with severe consequences of death, or crippling diseases in survivors. I think a state will do well to have an alcohol policy, wherein some strict measures could be taken to prevent harmful consequences of alcohol, for example, punishing drunken driving, preventing consumption below certain age (18, 21 etc), and having good health services to detect health damage due to alcohol at an early stage. Improving the employment status and literacy rates also are supposed to help.

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