Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Ban Culture! Where Does The Buck Stop?

Are we becoming a totalitarian state?

If not. Is the governance becoming autocratic? Thankfully in a vibrant democracy with reactive media and aggressive electorate this is a far fetched idea.

Prohibition in Bihar has further promoted the ban culture in India. After Gujarat, Kerala, Bihar, Manipur, Mizoram, Tamilnadu, Nagaland and Lakshadweep, and now Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh to follow suit. The prohibition applicable in these States is partial or total.   

With the rise in puritanism, the country will be facing stifling of liberal/recreational culture some obviously on pretext of curbing western cultural influence in India. Well if puritanism or ideology is a way of life, then lifestyles which advocate a more liberal attitude towards certain acceptable social mores and pleasures  is also a way of long as it does not impinge on the interest of others or the State.   

That people believe in a certain ideals and way of life is well understood but this does not mean it should be forcefully imposed on others. To be told what to eat, listen, see, drink, or wear is regressive by all means. A straightforward ban is stifling. A regulatory approach should be in place.

There is a thin line that separates authoritarianism from good governance.  

"Chronic or excessive alcohol consumption is certainly bad and as such it can be an insurmountable challenge for the society." 

Shouldn't it be that the menace be curbed by creating awareness, moral persuasion or by use of some other means rather than bring about a total ban. Already alcohol use is a stigma amongst many in India.  

Smoking is being discouraged through high cost, restriction and propoganda,  a palpable reduction in the act has come into place. Why not alcohol? If the use of intoxicants is going over board than it is the right policy to make the availability restricted.

That alcohol use will come to an end post ban is chimerical indulgence. Illegal business (bootlegging), illicit brewing and hence illegal consumption will engulf even those who consume in moderation and make them criminal participant. Even wine and beer with low alcohol content will not be spared.

Illegal distilling will certainly increase the chances of people dying because of poisoning. In some instances indulgence in intoxicating drugs may rise.

May be the underground machinery is already gearing up to the new opportunity. This means rise of criminal nexus between the smugglers, hoarders, suppliers and the consumers. Connivance of corrupt elements within the police in these activities cannot be ruled out. Political connivance cannot be ruled out as well.  The channels once in place will act as a conduit for greater criminal activities.

As per reports unhindered availability of alcohol via different channels in states professing prohibition should be an eye opener. Ban is clearly not the answer.        

The act of ban on consumption and manufacture is suggestive of a stunted mechanism devoid of out of the box solutions.  For outsiders ban culture is suggestive of being against the ethos of a free state and could deter tourism and investment.       

Coming back to prohibition, this has been imposed in other states as well, but it has been subsequently repealed indicating a confused  paradigm. Same is the case of countries across the globe. 

In India there are many laws besides the high cost that regulate alcohol consumption, drunk driving rules, restriction on consumption in public places, licensing and monitoring, age limit, dry days, elections, condition of sale etc.

The liquor policies are State subject as per the schedule seventh  of the Constitution of India.

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