Chandigarh,January 3 : India has been identified as the third largest market for alcoholic beverages in the world. As a result of such a big potential market, it has become a favourite playing field for most of the multinational liquor companies. Clubbed with the marketing and policy influence and intervention by the Alcohol industry, consumption of alcohol in all forms has increased many folds over the years. RTI information obtained by the NGO “People for Transparency” for its campaigning, “Stop! Underage Drinking,” shows how fast India is getting enmeshed into the alcohol problem.
Snapshot of consumption of liquor in north of India displays a very shocking trend. In Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab and Haryana, per-capita consumption of alcohol comes out to be 135.82 bottles for every adult above the age of 18. This figure means that every adult male & female living in Chandigarh consumes over 11 bottles of alcohol per month.
Punjab, Haryana and Himachal too are not far behind. Contrary to the popular belief that Punjab tops in alcohol consumption, it is actually Haryana which beats Punjab by nearly 100 percent. During the year 2008-09, 1.2 crore Haryanvis gulped 26.52 crore bottle of alcohol. Delhi with a population of 1.10 crore adult is also far behind Haryana with 16.28 crore bottle of alcohol. Even Himachal has managed to beat Punjab with regard to per capita alcohol consumption.
According to the information provided by Excise Department of four states & UT of Chandigarh, the 4.5 crore adults of Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Himachal and Delhi managed to drink 74.46 crore bottles of alcohol during the year 2008-09.
As per the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Status Report on Alcohol 2004 total recorded alcohol per capita consumption among the age group of above 15 years of age is 0.82 litre of pure alcohol. But as per the information compiled by People for Transparency, it is 12.44 litre of alcohol for the five States and Union Territory (Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi & Chandigarh). “This is certainly very good news for the alcohol industry but not for the health authorities.” said Social worker & RTI Activist Kamal Anand who had procured all the information.
Public health activist Hemant Goswami, who has worked hard to get the Chandigarh as the first smoke free city said “It is no joke that Chandigarh has a sale of nearly 2 lakh bottles of liquor every day. The liberalised policy on alcohol sale by the bureaucrats of Chandigarh is responsible for it. Even toy shops in Chandigarh now sell alcohol. It time for the Government to take note of these huge figure and wake up to the approaching pandemic caused by alcohol. Administration and the health authorities of all the four states & UT should also work to put an end to sale of alcohol to person below the age of twenty five. The Excise Act is specific about the minimum age of drinking being 25. Despite that being the case there are less than 20 cases registered in all five states in the last ten years for underage drinking, even though one can see children and youngsters in every bars, restaurants & discos sipping alcohol.”
Constitution of India has clear directions for the State and makes it a duty of the Government to reduce consumption of liquor and generate public opinion against it. Article 47 of the constitution reads “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 purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.”
“Despite such a specific direction in the Constitution, ill managed States by politicians & bureaucrats take the excuse of finances and taxes generated by alcohol industries as a reason to promote alcohol.” Kamal Anand complained.
As per WHO report india was ranked at 160 place It seems that India is going to jump many places in ranking in the next World Health Organization (WHO) Global Status Report on Alcohol. “Not only WHO but even governments all over the world are streamlining policies related to alcohol so that Public Health and Public Interest can supersede commercial interest, India still seems to be working in the other direction. Government is spending crores on public health, de-addiction centres on the one hand on the other hand it is promoting the use of alcohol. It is indeed shameful.” Hemant added
Kamal rues that in a country where every currency bears a picture of Mahatma Gandhi, no one seems to be listening to his advice. Remembering his words, Kamal mention how Mahatma was one of the strongest proponents of alcohol abstinence. According to Gandhi “ one of the most greatly felt evils of the British rule is the importation of alcohol – that enemy of mankind, the curse of civilization – in some form or another. The measure of the evil wrought by this borrowed habit will be properly guaged by the reader when he is told that the enemy has spread throughout the length and breadth of India, in spite of religious prohibition; for even the touch of a bottle containing alcohol pollutes the Mahomedan, according to his religion, and the religion of the Hindu strictly prohibits the use of alcohol in any form whatever, and yet alas! The Government it seems, instead of stopping, are aiding and abetting the spread of alcohol. The poor there, as every where are the greatest sufferers. It is they who spend what little they earn in buying alcohol instead of buying good food and other necessaries. It is that wretched poor man who has to starve his family, who has to break the sacred trust of looking after his children, if any, in order to drink himself into misery and premature death.”