Sunday, August 24, 2014

On Kerala going dry.

The Government of Kerala is in the process of curbing the use and sale of alcoholic
drinks and the State machinery is working overtime for its implementation.  The news of it was received in a variety of ways by different sections of people. The womenfolk welcomed the decision wholeheartedly because they were at the receiving end of its vices and vagaries at the home. But surprise and disbelief were the main emotions among the people. Although politicians often made speeches about prohibition no one took them seriously including the politicians themselves. For, Kerala tops in the per ca pita consumption of liquor in India. Even school going children take a swig before the class and  no one thought prohibition was ever possible in Kerala. The people who really yearned to see the end of liquor were not an organised lot in the state and beyond their wish they were powerless to do anything, whereas the liquor lobby is organised, powerful and wealthy. The state thrived out of their tax money and politicians found a generous source of funds for the party in them. In such a circumstance it was difficult to expect that one day the liquor kings would be controlled and supply of alcohol curbed.

The decision of the Kerala Government to curb alcohol was more accidental  than pre-planned and
the decision was not easy either. There are 731 bars in Kerala and the licences for them to operate are given on yearly basis. This year the licence for 418 bars were kept pending finding them not up to the mark.  The normal course of action in such a  situation is to order the inferior quality bars to make them suitable for functioning and they in turn would execute some repairs before licences are given to them. This year the K P C C President Sri V M Sudheeran insisted not to extend the licence of those 418 bars in order to limit the supply of liquor in the state. The Chief Minister found it difficult to discriminate bars in the issue of licenses. So the Government decided to revoke bar licence to the entire bar owners . Now bars would function in 5 Star Hotels only as they are under Central Government purview.

The initiation of Sri V M Sudheeran and the Chief Minister's willingness to rise up to the occasion helped the decision to come out. Actually the Government is only limiting the availability of liquor and does not prohibit use of it anywhere in the state at one blow. The users of alcohol have enough time to slowly come out of the habit (or to drown in it) as it would take nearly ten years to close all Government outlets.

There are only a few states in India prohibiting the consumption of alcohol. The number one is Gujarat state where Mahatma Gandhi was born and as a mark of respect for him the state remained dry since its inception in 1960. The other states are Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Lakshadweep. Although they are all so called dry states there are plenty of underground water to tap and no one is dying there out of thirst.

Several states experimented prohibition on and off  but most of them failed. The erstwhile Andhra state was dry from 1958 to 1969 and again became dry in 1994 and lifted it in 1997. The Tamil Nadu was dry for two decades from 1952 and Haryana experimented prohibition for two years in 1996. All states come back to liquor supply after the experiment and in the states where prohibition is still in force  alcoholic beverages are not such a rare commodity. The three vices, prostitution, Gambling and alcoholism, were always with us and the human race is accursed to live with them forever.

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