Bihar became the fourth Indian state after Gujarat, Nagaland and Manipur (some parts) to enforce prohibition in India from April 2016. It’s a different matter that Nitish Kumar and Co had prohibition as one of the election campaign agendas. Touted as a victory of morality, it looks forward to a better Bihar. But then, have the drinkers in Bihar turned magically sober? Nope. There has been a surge in liquor tourism in Nepal courtesy Bihar. The union territory of Lakshwadeep has prohibition as well. Kerala is implementing it in a phased manner since 2014, Tamil Nadu is mulling over it.
Prohibition is the imperative plan to all solutions by the self-righteous public in the country. It’s the readymade suggestion and solution to any social problem. Ban liquor and all drinkers will become sober overnight, will expel the craving for booze like they expel urine, they will start being model citizens etc etc. And of course in India, the parameter of judging a person’s character is whether he/she smokes or drinks. To hell with other traits like intellect, integrity, honesty etc. Who’s got time to dig deep? We are superficial people, for whom just face value matters, and not character or calibre. We cry hoarse about honesty and cleaning up politics, but always vote for people who distribute freebies during poll time and put up theatrics, not the ones who can bring positive change. In performing arts too, we uphold gaudiness and make it popular while dismissing real acting prowess. Therefore, when it comes to cleaning up, we are happy to blame everything on liquor instead of the weakness and selfishness of our character. Issue solved. Even while banning tobacco, the main targets are cigarettes, which in the country constitute of at the most 15% of the tobacco intake. The other 85%, which are real killers like chewing tobacco are still available at a fairly cheap price.
Has prohibition been really successful anywhere, turning decadent societies into cultured one in a flash? We are forgetting human nature: The more you deny someone a thing, the more they will crave for it and find ways to acquire it thorough any means.
Prohibition does not kill the craving for alcohol, it only increases its demand and creates a whole underground economy that caters to providing it. And since people with legal means do not get into this, who does? The mafia. Not just the gangsters, but also the bureaucratic mafia. Prohibition becomes yet another tool for the corrupt to inflate their coffers and further push the society into the abyss.
Consider the biggest example that served how futile this measure is, ie the prohibition era in US (1920-33). For these thirteen years, the government just did not stop at banning the distillation, consumption and sale of alcohol, it straightaway resorted to poisoning the seized stocks and releasing them again to terrify the public to abandon it. It resulted in over 10000 deaths during the period of prohibition, and this figure is for deaths due to consumption and not in the various deaths due to gang war, shootouts with legal authorities involved due to bootlegging activities. Prohibition gave a major boost to organized crime in USA, where till then, criminal activities were limited to smuggling, prostitution, gambling and armed robberies. Bootlegging alcohol gave their revenues an unprecedented increase, with various crime syndicates rising to the top on bootlegging alone. Many notorious gangsters came to rise at that time, who could be brought down only with a lot of effort by the law enforcers as they were so well connected that they had everyone from politicians to judges covering up for them. By the time prohibition was repealed, the damage was already done. During prohibition period, alcohol consumption went up drastically, with ‘’speakeasy” joints propping up everywhere in absence of bars, millions of dollars of public money being spent to enforce prohibition and fight those violating it. After prohibition was repealed, the criminal elements (public and private) who had made their fortunes on bootlegging had made their base strong enough for them to rise high up in public life and other businesses to give them a legitimate identity. Many famous names are in this list, which the reader is encouraged to research. And of course, people indulged, and they have been ever since.
In India too, no amount of prohibition enforcement has been able to deter the consumption of alcohol. Gujarat, which has had it imposed since its formation, today remains the largest black market for alcohol, in spite of death penalty for country liquor brewing [Bombay Prohibition (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2009). Smuggling and illicit trade of alcohol are very common and anything can be bought if the right contacts are in place.”Folder” is what is referred to in colloquial lingo, for the bootlegger delivering liquor at demand. If Chicago had Al Capone as a gift during the prohibition era, Ahmedabad had Abdul Latif. Prohibition doesn’t give you model citizens, it gives you a parallel economy and a wannabe gangster in every locality. Mizoram, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana tried to enforce prohibition, but had to repeal it short time due to its utter failure. It’s seen in the Indian scenario that prohibition is imposed mainly for earning from the black market and for the ruling party to have the liquor stocks exclusively to distribute during poll times.
At the cost of appearing mad I will say that societies that ban liquor turn into insane places where people are insane. Any society that puts human inhibitions into a straitjacket becomes a society full of rage, frustration and stupidity. There are 57 countries that have banned liquor more or less due to Sharia. We all know how sane their societies are. They can beat up their wives better than any drunkard can. They can kill and maim each other better than two groups fighting in a bar. And they are 100% liquor free. But ironically, they imagine a heaven full of wine rivers (in addition to girls and boys for the afterlife). None of the great civilizations of the past banned alcohol or other vices. If they could maintain a balance thousands of years ago, why can’t we in this day and age?
Making branded liquor more expensive isn’t going to help either, because then the consumption of country liquor/hooch will go up, and its the taxpayer who will have to bear the expenses of the tragedies happening due to it. No one can make the filth in the world disappear, one can only contain it.
Is sale of alcohol and its consumption worse than prostitution and its patrons? Can a country enforce complete ban on prostitution? Can anyone even think of such a thing? Why single out alcohol then? The world has a place for everyone and everything, as long as no one is hurting one another. Human beings have been into intoxication even before they started wearing clothes. No amount of self righteousness or stupid claims is going to change it. Learn to live with it. Vices done in moderation are no sin. There is no harm in having some fun (without becoming a public nuisance). Drinking alcohol won’t make you into a cool dude, but not drinking it won’t make you into a saint either. Any person who thinks that s/he is morally superior to someone merely because of not drinking or smoking deserves a huge kick in the butt. You are not morally superior, you are a mentally defunct person who has a very limited understanding of what morality means. On a lighter note, maybe we should ban books in India. If human nature is true, we will have the smartest population on the planet in one decade. And I write this without being under the influence of alcohol.
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