Worried that Kerala is fast turning into a community of alcoholics with tens of thousands of working men refusing to pay for their families’ upkeep, V.D. Satheesan, MLA, has called for evolving a mechanism that will ensure that at least half of a man’s wages goes to the family.
“The State and the society should work on a constitutionally valid system whereby the head of the family is forced to spend at least half of his wages or salary on the family’s basic needs like food, accommodation and children’s education,” Mr. Satheesan, Congress MLA from Paravur, has suggested.
“Alcoholism is pushing large number of families, particularly in the rural areas, into poverty and hunger as the male members spend their entire incomes on drinking.”
He noted that there were laws in place that made it mandatory for heads of families to take care of their parents, children and wives. Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code prescribed punishment for violations too. But these laws were far too inadequate to handle the problem of alcoholism that made men waste their incomes. “In order to ensure that the family does not go hungry, some kind of a mechanism should be evolved that force a man to shell out at least a half of his income for the family,” Mr. Satheesan said.
He noted that addiction to the bottle was spreading like a mass disease across Kerala.
The main fallout was that families were being pauperised. Without the notice of society, rural families were sinking in poverty, becoming homeless and their children dropping out of school. “There are thousands of rural men who do not pay a single rupee to the family out of the Rs. 500 or so that they get a day as wages. They spend their entire incomes on the bottle.” The rise in the number of schoolchildren opting for the free noon-meal at school was an indication that an unbelievable number of families were going hungry because of their bread-winners’ drinking habit.
He said raising the price of liquor with a view to reducing alcohol consumption had proved ineffective.
“Higher price for a bottle only means that the meagre sum of money the family gets from its breadwinner becomes even leaner,” he said. “Raising the liquor price by the government only leads to more empty stomachs.”
Drinking was also affecting the productivity of rural workers, Mr. Satheesan said. “Of late, employers are reluctant to hire workers on Monday because Sunday drinking by the workers drastically reduces their productivity on Monday.”
He said a total ban on drinking was not a practical solution to alcoholism. He pointed out that drinking survived even in a country like Saudi Arabia where drinking attracted hefty punishment.