Ban on Alcohol in Kerala!
by Elizabeth Menon

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Ban on Alcohol in Kerala!

Kerala government has decided to close all 730 bars in the state, allowing only five-star hotels to have the bars from April 2015 – 418 bars have been closed already since April and licence for the 312 bars will not be renewed after 31 March2015. Kerala State Beverages Corporation (KSBC) runs 337 liquor shops, open seven days a week, each liquor shop catering for around an amazing 80,000 clients also would be phased out! Kerala consumes 16% of India's total liquor and has the country’s highest per capita consumption of alcohol at 8.3 litres per year taking over that of Punjab and Haryana, and double the national figure of four litres/year! It is estimated that more than 40% of revenue come from alcohol, both from KSBC and private sector! One must understand here that the per capita consumption rate of 8.3 litres/year is calculated in relation to the total population that includes women and children, most of whom do not consume the stuff and therefore, the actual rate would be even much higher! It is then, not surprising that the incidence of liver failure following cirrhosis liver is rather high, and not to forget domestic violence and alcohol related divorces! Alcohol in excess is detrimental for health and there is no argument against its ill effects, but closing the bars in hotels or ban on liquor is not the answer for that -- this would only increase the flow of illicit toxic liquor into the community, which would cause blindness and death!

Domestic violence, suicide and poverty due to excessive drinking is another side of the coin, but a ban will not stop it, as those who need the drink will find the toxic liquor from back-streets, which would be more dangerous -- the buyers and the sellers going underground! People should be made aware of the dangers of excessive drinking -- a glass of wine a day is accepted to be good and the incidence of heart disease is known to be less in Italy where people do have a drink with their meal, but that does not mean that one should drink it like the cattle do -- a drink is meant to be sipped slowly and not drink in one gulp as shown in some films! The awareness among people to drink in moderation is what is needed and to avoid drinking the illicit toxic drink that can cause all sorts of damage, and also to avoid drink-driving!

There are lot of people around the world, even among the elite and high-society who do not drink, but it is quite the done thing to have a drink with one's meal, or during a social occasion, which does not make one an alcoholic! We are living in the 21st century, and we should be aware of the financial aspects too, as money for the public services do not drop from the sky; the revenue comes from all sorts and tourism makes a big part! Most tourists would like to have a drink when they are on holiday and when they know that they can't have a drink, they would think twice before coming to Kerala, and also the Government needs money for education, salary, pension, etc and they would eventually have to increase the tax or the price of commodities to raise the money for its functioning and eventually the people will have to bear the brunt of it all. These are some of the facts one need to consider before barging on a scheme like putting a ban on alcohol! People work very hard all their life and it is the Pension, Provident fund, etc, that give a bit of comfortable living once they retire and that should never be touched, and even thinking about stopping these is unpardonable!

There are so many other things that the government should be spending their time, like protecting women and children from the rapists and trafficking, stopping corruption, implementing the existing law of wearing seat belts by all passengers in a car and helmets for the two-wheelers to prevent deaths, improving roads, increasing old age pension, providing benefits for the disabled, etc! I don't want anyone to think that I support the 'Liquor lobby': 'I don't', and I don't drink either! It is ideal if one could avoid all that is harmful, but we don't live in an ideal world, and one should know one's own limitation(“Man must know his limitation', as the famous saying!) and learn to stop when that limit is reached – drinking in moderation, unless alcohol is medically advised against, should be the motto for those who like a drink! It is the public awareness regarding the hazardous aspects of alcohol that should be promoted and not a 'Ban on alcohol', which will have dire consequences at various levels, including the increase in the underground selling of illicit toxic alcohol that kills, and one needs to think logically about all aspects before bringing on the 'Ban'!

© E Menon



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