AN ACTIVE AND RESPONSIVE MEDIA SUPPORT IS ESSENTIAL TO TACKLE THE PROBLEM OF ALCOHOL ABUSE: DR. RAMADOSSNew Delhi,29 Apr:Releasing the manual “Alcohol Atlas of India” prepared by the Indian Alcohol Policy Alliance (IAPA), the Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss asked the media to create awareness about the adverse social, economic and medical effects of alcohol abuse among the masses. He said the reach of media has multiplied manifold and this issue should form an important agenda of the media. Besides Shri Swami Agnivesh, Chairman, Bandua Mukuti Morcha, Dr. Vijay Chandra, Regional Advisor, WHO-SEARO, representatives from the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance (GAPA) and various NGOs were also present at the function.The following is the text of the Health Minister’s speech:This subject is very close to my heart. I get disturbed when I see people suffering because of their addiction to Alcohol, Drug, Tobacco or other similar addictives. As you are aware, Alcohol Abuse is a major cause of concern for our country. A recent survey has revealed that the number of Alcohol users in the country is on the rise and the number of persons requiring help is quite large. Alcohol addiction has now not remained just an urban phenomena but even the rural areas are widely affected by this. The trend of women consuming Alcohol is also on the rise.
A study by NIMHANS has shown that the average age of initiation has reduced from 28 years during the 1980s to 20 years in the recent times. The National Survey (study sponsored by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2004) revealed that among adult men, about 21% were current drinkers and about 17% were regular user of alcohol, and among those seeking treatment about 44% were alcohol users. The most recent data on alcohol use is available from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3, 2007) Data collected in 2005-06, published in September 2007. It showed that about 32% were current users of alcohol and between 4 and 13% were daily users. The proportion of users among rural and urban population is very similar (32% and 31% respectively).
We all know that our nation traditionally has a dry or abstaining culture yet now it has one of the largest alcoholic beverage industries in the world. We are the dominant producer of alcohol in the South East Asia region (65%) and contribute to about 7% of the total alcohol beverage imports into the region. The increasing production, distribution, promotion and easy availability of alcohol coupled with the changing value of society and Illiteracy have resulted in a big challenge for the country in the absence of advocacy, research & documentation and a National Policy on Alcohol.
Alcohol abuse causes economic social and emotional problems for the addict as well as his family apart from causing medical problem for the individual. On the medical side, there is no organ in the body, which is not affected adversely because of consumption of Alcohol. Besides severe health problems, accidents also take place while driving after alcohol consumption resulting in head injuries and hospitalizations.
The media can play a very effective role in tackling this problem. Today the reach of media has multiplied manifold and has a reach in almost every household. Generation of awareness about the bad social, economic and medical effects of alcohol abuse among the masses should be an important agenda of the media. This is not to say that the media has not done anything in this area, but I am just emphasizing that much more can be achieved through an active and responsive media. I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for having provided great support to me in my campaign against tobacco. We need to take the message down to the schools and colleges and to the rural areas where this is becoming a big problem. Rural as well as urban youth is taking to alcohol on a very large scale and the trend is on the rise. This will cause societal tension and many kinds of distortions in the years to come. Therefore, we have to take effective steps now and here.
Advertising of alcoholic beverages is prohibited but we see that the manufacturers take the help of surrogate advertisements to advertise such products. This is one area where the media can play a very crucial role through some kind of self-regulatory mechanism. Though it may cause some revenue loss to the media but the gains for the society would be manifold. Today when young persons see the advertisements of the different brands in surrogate ads and the attendant glamorous lifestyles, they are misled and they get an impression that the ultimate symbol of having arrived is to consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes. We need to make concerted efforts to face this problem heads on and to find appropriate solutions.
I am happy to share with you that the initiatives of Ministry of Health and Family welfare on surrogate ads has made a remarkable check on promotional activities of Alcohol on media. Article 47 of the Constitution, one of the Directive Principles of the State Policy, makes it a duty of the State to discourage the consumption of alcohol. It reads like this “The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties and, in particular, the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purpose of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.” Therefore, it becomes our foremost duty to see to it that the problem of alcoholism does not disrupt the social fabric of our country.
The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare provides one time grant of Rs.8 lakhs to the State Governments to set-up Drug De-addiction Centers in the districts. At these centers, drug and alcohol addicts are provided medical care. The recurring cost is borne by the respective State Governments. For the North-Eastern States, my Ministry provides an annual recurring grant of Rs.2 lakhs to each centre. Presently, there are approximately 125 centers in the country out of which more than 40 are in the North-Eastern States. Ministry of Social Justice provides grant to the non-governmental organizations for providing counseling and treatment services. We have the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre at Ghaziabad, which is an arm of the All India Sciences of Medical Institute. These centers serve as an apex medical institution for providing medical care to the drug and alcohol addicts.
I am happy to announce that the Indian Alcohol Policy Alliance, which is committed to prevent alcohol, related harm has brought up beautifully a pile of information and data on Alcohol. I do believe that it will be useful for policy makers, professionals, organizations, media and the Indian society.
This atlas covers multi dimensional aspects of alcohol ranging from production to response. It focuses on issues related to production, distribution, availability and sale, consumption patterns, health consequences, socioeconomic impact and response of the country towards control and prevention of harm.
To me, it is consoling and encouraging whenever I see organisations, institutions, women self help groups and individuals, taking their own initiatives to find ways to better understand, analyze and make sincere efforts to face the fifth largest risk factor for the global burden of injury and disease. I hope many will join your alliance for such a noble cause along with cooperation from the Health Ministry.
I would like to thank you all for having invited me and for providing this opportunity to share my thoughts on alcohol abuse with the august gathering here particularly our friends from the media who have a very important role to play in mitigating this problem. I, once again, congratulate IAPA for their commendable initiative.
With these words, it gives me immense pleasure to release the “ Alcohol Atlas of India “ brought out by IAPA.