Mahatma Gandhi was the primary advocate of prohibition in India considering alcohol as a social evil. Prohibition exists in Gujarat, Nagaland; parts of Manipur; and Lakshadweep.
It is not the person who controls his drinks – it is the drink that controls and consumes the person.
Let us take state Gujarat as a model for the results of prohibition.
Since 1958 Gujarat has a law in force that prohibits the manufacture, storage, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages. The only Indian state with the death penalty for makers and sellers of homemade liquor where fatalities are caused. And yet there is rampant Alcoholism prevalent there.
Smuggling and illicit liquor trade flourishes. ‘Folder’ is the local slang for the person who provides alcohol on demand. The Union Territory of Daman that is an hour away from Gujarat has a flourishing liquor trade thanks to the tipplers from there. Liquor is smuggled in from neighboring States, manufacture and sale of spurious liquor still goes on and so do the related deaths, the last being of 148 people in 2009 indicating that the authorities are in cahoots with the bootleggers.
All the other states with prohibition allow the production of local brews and also IMFL (Indian made foreign liquor)
Kerala is planning to implement prohibition in a phased manner, by the next decade. The liquor business forms 22 percent of the state’s revenue. As the first step to total prohibition, the government decided to close down 730 bars out of 752. An increase in retail prices have never been a dissuading factor for drinkers.
Is alcoholism and Kerala meant for each other? There are queues since early morning outside liquor shops that resemble the lines outside a temple. Kerala has the highest per capita consumption of alcohol in the country. The drinking age has dropped from 19 years to 13.5 years. The per capita consumption is 20l/person amongst those who drink. Today there is not a celebration there that does not begin with the popping off the proverbial cork. Children are watching a generation of parents coming home drunk or getting drunk at home or drinking in the day at home/outside and growing up to think that this is “normal.”
There have been numerous talk shows on the subject with people baying for shutting down bars in villages and towns to curb the menace of alcoholism. This only reflects the abject lack of awareness amongst the people and sad to say even the medical fraternity in Kerala regarding the actual nature of the disease of addiction and myths abound.
The primary aim of prohibition has been to curb alcoholism, and this has failed miserably. There is instead increased consumption of spurious liquor, local brews, perfumes, aftershaves, etc. Alternate addictions set in and rise which tend to affect the health of the addict, even further.
Banning alcohol will not result in an end to alcoholism
Awareness about the nature of addiction and primary awareness regarding the solutions to go beyond it needs to be propagated in every village, town, and city.
It is very essential to treat the Addiction in the person in a residential, ++ non-medical facility, as left untreated addiction is fatal. Treatment of the family becomes essential for co-dependency as consequently, it destroys families.
True lasting change has to happen from within outwards…never only with a change in the external milieu.
-By Dr. Sujatha Nair