Mark Twain once said "prohibition only drives drunkenness behind the doors and into dark places and does not cure it or even diminish it". Unfortunately, this quote still holds water in present scenario and Bihar is no exception. Liquor ban is all time favorite and popular publicity stunt of almost all the political parties. In fact, the entire strata of voters have been meticulously divided into different sections on the basis of their demands, status and even gender. Many opportunist political parties have something to pick up from the platter for all the sections of the society. Thanks to the Famous Political tactics. Liquor ban is one of them. It is for the women voters who are the most sufferer and victim of alcoholism.
It is also true that not all the ruling parties have the guts to realize this promise given to high magnitude of revenue earned by the sale of alcohol. In these circumstances, Bihar Liquor ban is indeed an exemplary step by the Bihar Govt. However, It is not the first time that any state govt has banned the liquor sale. Earlier, Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra also witnessed such prohibition. But in more or less, all cases, it end up in black-marketing, smuggling and illegal hoarding of alcohol. Chronic drunkards go to nearby states to consume liquor where such ban is not in force.
In brief, the result is the same. Liquor ban changed the method of buying/having liquor but not the consumption pattern. Earlier it can be bought legally from any licensed shop. After ban, it takes a little harder but if one can spends some more it is not a difficult task to get it illegally across the interstate borders. In a nutshell, you can have it if you can pay the price. In this sense, Bihar liquor ban is one more lullaby for many NGOs who could now take credit for its implication and could prove its worth. It could make govt. authorities proud and give them a golden opportunity to criticize other state govt. /central govt. Generally, rallies are organized to thank the govt. for acting as a crusader of the poor and no stone is left unturned to portray that it was the only and only thing that has the potential to improve the lives of millions of downtrodden. But soon it proved as a tool to get maximum political mileage.
It is true that alcoholism has crippled a major chunk of our human workforce. It engulfs not only the life of the consumer but also of their near and dear ones. Thus it is the high time to take stringent actions to eradicate this problem. But liquor ban is only an emergency provision and not the long term remedy. Adding to its politicization, even the minimal benefits of such bans disappears. It could prove beneficial to millions of others only if effective and efficient planning is done to tackle the defaulters and smugglers. Prohibition is not a solution to kick the bottle because action performed under external pressure/force is not voluntary and thus not long lasting. In case of prohibition, those who could not afford smuggled alcohol restore to low quality toxic, alcohol or drugs which may worsen the situation. The solution is to make the actions voluntary by providing counseling, quality education, nourishment and health facilities to the masses to make them aware of ill effects of the liquor. Professional counseling and assistive medical treatment of the habitual drunkards can create miracles. Above all, stringent penalties and actions should be imposed against the defaulters and those who are involved in the illegal smuggling of liquor and other drugs.
For this, community programs at grass root level can be initiated that should be based on the area specific tradition, culture and lifestyle. For example, in Punjab, the teachings of Sikh gurus can be narrated and linked to current problems to provide valid reasons to the youngsters for staying away from the liquor and drugs. Similarly, in Maharashtra, the rich tradition of bravery & non-subordination of the Marathas can be recalled and the people may be called upon to abhor the slavery of all kinds of drug/alcohol.
The benefits of such interactive programs can be manifold, if supported by a robust medical infrastructure. Nukkad nataks, weekly fairs, day to day assemblies of local people all other activities that increase the day to day interaction among the people may release the tensions and depression that is the main propeller of alcoholism.
Multilateral, collaborative and systematic approach involving all the stakeholders can only bring significant changes. Merely, announcements of banning liquor may show little improvement in Govt. figures but the ground reality will remain the same.
- POOJA GUPTA