Flash floods in Sri Lanka, Australia and Brazil. Biting cold and fog in north India. If there is one thing linking all these in the minds of the doomsdayers, it can be summed up in two words — global warming, preferably in capital letters. Cities and shorelines drowned under water a la “Waterworld” is how it is imagined. So we have the Maldives government holding a Cabinet meet under the sea, while the Nepalese government hikes up the Himalayas. And is Kerala immune?
Trapped between the devil of the ghats, on one side, and the deep blue sea (or should it be muddy grey) on the other, this narrow strip can ignore such a threat only at its peril. But there is an even greater threat looming over this State and it is a clear and present danger. Liquid death in another form. No not H2O but C2H5OH!
Yes, ethanol aka alcohol aka elixir (of death). There was a time in the 1970s and 1980s when the Gulf oil boom was at its peak and many a young man from the State made his fortune there. Then the efflux of nurses to the U.S. Lavish houses sprang up as a result, with the only occupants being the elderly grandpa and grandma. The situation is now similar but because of a sinister reason.
The young men are drowning in alcohol and inviting slow death. They are in hospitals, ravaged with pancreatitis and liver diseases. In the peak of life, they are battling alcohol withdrawal syndromes in de-addiction centres. Meanwhile their parents drown in tears, their wives struggle to keep afloat and children are adrift.
The Grim Reaper is busy and happy and every once in a while hurries some to a faster death in their two- and four-wheelers. In fact, a day spent in the surgical casualty of any government medical college in the State will reveal the fact that almost 95 per cent of vehicular accidents involve people who are driving after having consumed alcohol in some form or the other.
And these do not happen only in the night. Alcohol-related accidents have no time of the day now, as the crowd throughout the day outside any beverages outlet will show. Alcohol has replaced water and tea as the favourite drink of Keralites. Spine chilling it would have been, but the senses have been numbed by the drink.
The churches in Kerala woke up to the danger some time ago. Cutting across denominations, they have started raising their voices. It is necessary for the Church to join hands with other organisations like the NSS and the SNDP to fight this evil. The political parties were used to using the drink to keep their people together and ready to fight at every call. It was like the proverbial Sheik Chilli cutting the branch on which he was sitting.
Realisation has dawned on them too, albeit a bit late. But better late than never. It is time for the leaders and thinkers on the Right and the Left to join together to face this situation. Complete prohibition may not be possible or practical but at least responsible consumption should be possible. The time to stand up and act is now; else there will not be many standing.
(The writer is Assistant Professor in Surgery, T. D. Medical College, Alappuzha, Kerala. His email id is: Philip.firstname.lastname@example.org)
Keywords: Kerala liquor deaths