- The Indian population is well aware of how the political masters time and again endorse matters that potentially carry considerable traction amongst the voters. Experiences of the past amply demonstrate that our political leaders, irrespective of party affiliations, will not let go of an opportunity to further consolidate their assiduously built vote banks even if it goes against the tenet of the economic jurisprudence. What drives our political leaders relentlessly to position themselves as the messiah of society is a whiff of an opening to impress upon the electorate. No sane leader(s) would turn a blind eye to such an opportunity lying in front of them.
- Of late, the realization about women electors essaying a decisive role in the overall political outcome deciding who assumes or loses power has driven political masters to come out with policies specifically aimed at garnering their attention. One such matter carrying a huge transformational heft is to announce the banning of liquor consumption through the imposition of prohibition laws. Now, experts have passionately argued how little such financially imprudent moves will affect the government exchequer. Yes, we all know liquor consumption is injurious to health and would also deprive poor families of precious money to sustain a dignified livelihood.
- I am not even referring to illegal hooches being produced by dubious bootleggers. No wonder, there are so many hooch tragedies reported from several states including those enforcing prohibition. Unfortunately, most people from poor families are largely affected much to the chagrin of the concerned authorities and civil society members. The latest hooch tragedy was reported from Gujarat where 40 lives are already lost, several others are hospitalized, and some are critical mirroring yet another tragic demonstration of the folly of prohibition. Meanwhile, in Bihar, another prohibition adherent, hooch has reportedly killed 115 people this year already. Remember, prohibition and exorbitant liquor taxes tend to push the poor towards illicit liquor, which is cheap but unsafe for consumption.
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- The Gujarat tragedy was caused by stolen methyl alcohol, used for industrial purposes, finding its way to bootleggers. In a kneezerk reaction to control the damage, officials are cracking down on methyl alcohol storage and conducting state-wide raids on bootleggers. Let’s comprehend why the anomaly persists. Economic logic dictates that where there is demand, a market will materialize. Prohibition only serves to drive it underground, evident from the ample availability of safe liquor for better-off classes in Gujarat and Bihar. This lucrative parallel economy, which engenders corruption and criminal rackets, is far more socially harmful than legal drinking. Such farcical continuance puts citizens who can legitimately drink elsewhere in the country under unnecessary risk of criminalization.
- No wonder, a staggering 30 lakh Prohibition Act cases are also jamming courts taking precious judicial time away from other crimes. As reported, 25% of criminal cases registered in 2020 under special acts and local laws were prohibition cases (5.6 lakh cases) with Gujarat accounting for nearly half. Moreover, revenues from liquor sales can support state exchequers instead of enriching criminals. Of course, issuing appropriate liquor advisories on liquor consumption should suffice to leave the adults to decide what is good or bad for them. The moot point to ponder over here is will the policymakers firm up a resolution to repeal the prohibition law which pushes adults to hooch because they can’t legally drink. No way as antagonizing the women electorate is too strong a factor for political masters to press ahead. As such, brace up for more hooch tragedies in the future too.