While the Maharashtra government promotes wine production and has a grain-based liquor policy, Social Justice Minister Shivajirao Moghe wants to tighten norms for serving liquor apart from launching a massive de-addiction programme.
Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, Mr. Moghe, a senior Congressman, said that social activist Anna Hazare and others across the State had suggested a policy for reducing liquor consumption and de-addiction. While it was not possible to bring in total prohibition, Mr. Moghe said that by increasing the permissible age to drink liquor, and raise it to 25 from the existing 21 years, at least the number of people drinking alcohol would be reduced.
The State is the major producer of wine in the country. According to the latest Economic Survey 2009-10, of the 62 wineries in the country, 58 are in Maharashtra with an investment of Rs. 329 crore.
The wine production in India is 2.5 crore litre of which 2.11 crore litre (97 per cent) is made here.
Discussions were under way with NGOs in Marathwada and Vidarbha and it is planned to have a State-wide campaign against liquor. Various departments of the government were being consulted to plan an awareness campaign and the government would provide some funds.
Hunt for brand ambassador
The government is also searching for a brand ambassador to take the awareness campaign on alcohol abuse forward. Some names doing the rounds are actor Amitabh Bachchan and Amir Khan. “But we will have to see if they really fit the brand and if they are teetotallers,” Mr. Moghe said. Mainly it will be the involvement of the public who need to come forward and support the government, he pointed out.
After discussions with NGOs and government departments, a proposal to tighten norms for serving liquor will be put up before the State Cabinet in one and half months. “I have been campaigning against alcohol abuse for 40 years and I want to take preventive steps to discourage drinking,” he said.
In his zeal, Mr. Moghe has even met Congress president Sonia Gandhi recently to seek her approval for the de-addiction and awareness programme against alcohol consumption. Ms. Gandhi, he said, asked him if this was possible. He had met President Pratibha Patil to suggest awards for those working in the field of de-addiction.
Last year, the State put into action a controversial grain-based liquor policy to promote industries in backward areas. Under the “grain-based distillery and integrated unit financial relief 2007,” special incentives will be given to grain-based new distilleries.