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Why is Alcohol Banned in Some Indian States?

Dec 20, 2022

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Today’s edition of our Current Affairs will comprise a discussion on Why is Alcohol Banned in some Indian States. Read further to upgrade your UPSC CSE knowledge and also understand the topic’s relevance to the UPSC syllabus.

For Prelims: Governance

Banning of alcohol, Directive Principles of State Policy, 7th Schedule of the Constitution, Bihar Prohibition Act, 2016, Gujarat Prohibition Act, 1949.

For Mains: GS Paper II- Government Policies and Interventions in various sectors

About Alcohol in Indian Constitution, Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), Alcohol Prohibition in Indian states, Rationality of Alcohol Prohibition

Context

Recently Bihar’s liquor prohibition policy has been blamed, as the official death toll in “dry” Bihar has mounted to 38 from the latest hooch tragedy.

Probable Question

Why do some Indian states ban alcohol? What are its effects? (150 words, 10 marks)

About Alcohol in Indian Constitution

  • Article 47: One of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) mentions that “in particular, the State shall endeavor to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.” 
  • The 7th Schedule of the Constitution: Alcohol is a state subject, i.e. they have the right and responsibility to draft laws regarding it, including “the production, manufacture, possession, transport, purchase, and sale of intoxicating liquors.” 
  • Thus, laws regarding alcohol differ from state to state, falling in the whole spectrum between prohibition and private sale.
Bihar hooch tragedy
What is hooch?

Hooch is a commonly used term for poor-quality alcohol, derived from Hoochinoo, a native Alaskan tribe that was known to produce very strong liquor.

Unlike branded liquor which is produced in factories with sophisticated equipment and rigorous quality control, hooch is made in more crude settings without any quality checks.

Often, various adulterants are added to increase the potency of the liquor. Some of the known ones include organic waste, battery acid, and industry-grade methanol, all of which which are highly toxic.

Effects of spurious liquor:

Methanol or methyl alcohol can cause impaired vision, high toxicity, and metabolic acidosis, a condition in which the body produces excess acid that cannot be flushed out by the kidneys. The treatment for this is to intravenously administer Fomepizole and ethanol.

Status of Alcohol Prohibition in Indian states

It is difficult for states to declare a ban on alcohol. This is primarily because liquor revenues have consistently contributed a large share of the state government’s revenue. At present, liquor ban exists in the states of Bihar, Gujarat, Mizoram, and Nagaland while partial bans exist in Lakshadweep and Manipur. Some states, like Haryana, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, attempted to enact alcohol prohibition but abandoned it due to its failure.

Alcohol Banned in Some Indian States

Rationale behind alcohol prohibition

  • Reduction in domestic abuse: Various studies have provided evidence linking alcohol with domestic abuse or domestic violence. In India, prohibition has often been framed as a “women’s rights” issue. 
  • Crime against women: A report by the Sexual Violence Research Initiative says that after prohibition was introduced in 2016, “crimes against women have clearly declined both in terms of rate (registered cases per 100,000 female population) and incidence (absolute numbers).” 
  • Reducing Crimes: Many other factors and studies have shown marginal improvement in certain kinds of crime after prohibition such as reduced murder rates and other acts of violence caused by alcohol.
  • Harmony: Prohibition affects family members, affects kids, and it affects violence that happens inside someone’s home.

Arguments against alcohol prohibition

  • Strengthening crimes: The prohibition strengthens organized crime groups (or mafias) to the distribution of spurious liquor, as it creates opportunities for a thriving underground economy that distributes liquor, outside the regulatory framework of the state. 
  • Poorer section: Furthermore, prohibition disproportionately affects poorer sections of society with upper classes still being able to procure expensive (and safe) alcohol. 
  • Liquor revenue: Liquor revenues are not easy to ignore and have consistently contributed a large share of the state government’s revenue.

Way Forward

  • The government should restrict the age for drinking alcohol and buying alcohol below a certain age should also be restricted.
  • There is a need for organizing more awareness campaigns so that citizens should have more responsible behavior from within.

News Source: The Indian Express

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/why-do-some-indian-states-have-prohibition-does-it-work-8333222/

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