As the article “Alcohol politics, policies and public health” (Nov. 3) points out, while total prohibition is a failure as seen in Gujarat, unrestricted permissiveness has caused serious damage to society. In over a decade, the Centre and State governments have introduced several measures to discourage the drinking habit. But the number of those consuming alcohol has increased, thanks to the slackness of the law-enforcing agencies. What we need is not a change in policy but a strict enforcement of laws to curb drunken driving, boot-legging, sale of liquor before and after approved hours, sale to those below the age of 18, etc.
Though part of the alcohol produced is illicit, a major proportion is promoted by the government. As long as it keeps shops open in every corner of cities and towns, people will continue to get inebriated.
Though the sale of alcohol may seem to bring in revenue, the amount spent on combating its effects is almost double the profit earned. The government must, therefore, take the initiative to curb the production and sale of alcohol.
The author has correctly observed that drinking aggravates the poverty levels of the poor while it is also associated with the affluent sections. With the onset of neo-liberal values, social drinking is on the increase. Drinking over a long period affects the liver seriously. This hinders the effect of medicines meant for other ailments too.
For many youngsters, alcohol consumption has become a status symbol. Many liquor shops today have been turned into bars. They cause problems to the general public, especially women.
The government should make policies with a long-term vision and not just think of alcohol as a source of revenue.
M. Anil Kumar Reddy,
According to the Globe Magazine, official journal of the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance, “India is the clearest example of what the alcohol industry calls ‘emerging markets,’ countries where alcohol consumption is low but add on economic growth, a growing middle class, increasing purchasing power, and a high percentage of children and youth in the population.”
The need of the hour is to formulate a national alcohol harm control policy, which can address issues like uniform excise across the States, prevent underage drinking, restrict the timings and places of sale, promote low-strength beer while discouraging hard spirits, make tougher laws to separate drinking and driving, and focus on awareness issues.