‘Prohibition is no solution to alcohol abuse’


New Delhi: Swarna Bharat Party (SBP) denounces prohibition or excessive restrictions on the sale of alcohol by some States. Some of these States treat rich Indians and foreigners differently, with alcohol allowed to be served in five star hotels. Such arbitrary policies imply that some Indian citizens are less responsible than others, that such Indians are fit to vote, but unfit to make responsible decisions on the question of alcohol. This two-tier approach harks back to India’s colonial era. It also begs the question why alcohol is allowed to be manufactured in India in the first place.

In a press note issued by the SBP President, Mr. Vishal Singh noted that “Prohibition has been a disaster wherever it has been attempted. The evidence is overwhelming – from across India and the world – that prohibition is never realized in practice. Instead, illicit liquor and crime receives a fillip, including smuggling from nearby non-prohibition States. This causes governments to lose essential tax revenues, even as taxpayers pay more to deal with the consequences of increased crime and corruption.”

Moreover, Mr. Singh pointed out that such restrictions are a direct attack on the promise of liberty assured by the Preamble to India’s Constitution. No doubt, the Directive principles enjoin the State to impose prohibition on the ground that “intoxicating drinks… are injurious to health”. However, SBP believes that the merits and demerits of alcohol need to be constantly reviewed in the light of new scientific evidence. A Constitution is not the place to make public policy.

Even if alcohol were proven to be injurious to health, a government would not necessarily have a role. A government’s role must be limited to addressing any harm that people cause others, for example, driving when intoxicated or domestic violence, not harm they may choose to cause themselves.

Chanakya’s Arthashastra details how alcohol can be regulated. But India’s own history and that of other free countries can also provide useful insights. One way is to tax liquor, keeping in mind that if desi liquor is taxed heavily, the poor may switch to illicit, often toxic, liquor. Breath tests of drivers should be regularly undertaken, with revenues generated from fines defraying the cost of these tests. Those who harm others should be made to pay; not those who use alcohol responsibly.

Mr. Singh noted that excessive consumption of alcohol by someone in the privacy of their home can sometimes become a social issue. Social organizations should provide scientific information to the community on the harms of excessive drinking. SBP will also disseminate such information through its social outreach efforts.

Mr. Singh re-iterated that “A government’s job is to defend the liberty of every citizen, while addressing the harm caused by any irresponsible exercise of liberty. SBP’s manifesto outlines mature and well thought-out regulatory approach on all aspects of public policy. The recent alcohol ban in Kerala, the proposed ban in Bihar, and existing bans or significant restrictions in Gujarat, Maharashtra and other parts of India should be immediately reviewed.”