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Kerala Lottery profits for a social cause Kerala’s ideological warfare To ban or not to ban...
To ban or not to ban...
By announcing a new liquor-free policy, Chief Minister Oomen Chandy tries make Kerala join Gujarat and Nagaland that have banned sale of liquor.

Kerala State has decided to close all the 312 bars that are in operation, from 1 April, 2015. Licences for another 418 bars, which were closed in the past three months, would not be renewed. From April, only five-star hotels (about 36 now) and resorts can serve liquor. However, 400-odd retail stores owned by the Kerala government can sell liquor, the presence of which will be whittled down to zero over 10 years.

Just after the move, various stakeholders in the liquor business opposed the move and this saw them successfully obtaining a stay from the Supreme Court. The court questioned the logic behind the decision of the Kerala government.

Despite the challenge in the Supreme Court, Kerala government has maintained its resolve to make the wettest state in India go almost dry by 2024.


Should we ban?

Alcohol tends to play a crucial role in abetting crime. Alcohol seems to be the means and source of many other evils.

Kerala has always been a liquor- abundant state. Keralites consume about 8 litres per capita per annum, which is double the national average of 4.3 litres. The average drinking age decreased from 19 years to 13.5 years now. The Alcohol and Drug Information Centre in India says that 69 per cent of crimes, 40 per cent of road accidents and 80 per cent of divorce and domestic violence cases in Kerala can be linked to the consumption of drugs and alcohol. Liver, heart and other alcohol-related diseases are on the rise.

In a few states, the BPL families can avail healthcare facilities and government pays directly to the hospitals. The revenue that alcohol generates to the states can be offset easily by the cost incurred by the government to treat alcoholic addicts. It hence makes sense not to sell alcohol in the first place. Violence against women is almost invariably associated with intoxication with alcohol. Such families can only be placated by diminishing the availability of booze. Prohibition has the possibility to the improve conditions of alcohol - troubled families.


Should we not ban?

Alcoholism is an intense problem, but Prohibition could be a solution that might never work. Deep down, law - makers are constrained by the ability to legislate against human desire. If someone wants something and thinks it doesn’t harm others, he will always find a way to get it.

Developed countries like US and Iceland have made abortive attempts to prohibit alcohol, consumption. The most compelling reason not to ban alcohol is the lucrative cash flows it generates. For a state like Kerala, which gets about 20 per cent of  the state’s revenue from liquor sales. Prohibition it could upset the economy. It will also be major thumbs down for tourists who contribute more than 10 per cent of the state’s exchequer. The government would be poorer by about Rs 9000 crore. It adds up to a third of the plan outlay.

When Gujarat banned the sale of alcohol, the most pressing problem was bootlegging or and illegal trade. Indigenous intoxicants often claimed the lives. The haves can always afford to smuggle liquor from the neighboring states. The have-nots can be pulled into the quagmire of black market. It could explode when prohibition kicks in.

Donning an economist’s glasses, it could mean the death of an industry. It certainly has a negative effect on the brewery and alcohol industry. A contraction in demand shall hit the people employed in breweries and sales networks also. It will not help the already sluggish economy.

It is all a matter of personal choice about drinking. Any law prohibiting alcohol will only impair freedom of choice.  Time will answer the question if the Kerala government will be able to execute it in the truest meaning.

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