People who love their daily dose of wine, whiskey, rum, gin, beer or vodka can finally rejoice. There is one state government in the country that really cares for them. If you feel like having a sip, and there is not a drop at home, just log onto an online delivery website and place your order. In 30 minutes (hopefully!) you will be enjoying your drink! Just don’t forget to order something to eat too because empty stomach doesn’t go well with a drink or two, or more for that matter!
As per a recent decision of the Maharashtra government, online sale as well as home delivery of liquor in the state would be allowed. Though, no one knows from which date. The government intends to ‘curb the instances of drunken driving’ with home delivery serving of liquor. Well, we all know drunken driving is not really because people cannot drink at home, or cannot get a drink home.
So, why would the government all of a sudden decide to take a step in this direction? Well, some news reports published afterwards have pointed towards the ‘increase in revenue’ also as one of the objectives of this decision. The fact that the government is believed to be in talks with certain e-commerce companies too, for this end, lends some weight to this argument.
Nevertheless, there is one more point, which creates a little doubt as to the actual intention behind this ‘noble gesture.’ Sometime back, the Supreme Court of India had upheld the liquor ban on state highways, though the earlier distance of prohibition was reduced from 500 meters to 220 meters. Though the ruling was seen as a major blow to tourism sector in Goa, it doesn’t take rocket science to understand that the ripples were felt everywhere, especially in all major cities, including Bombay.
As is wont, the government must be losing sizable excise tax due to the closure of liquor outlets near the highways. So, couldn’t that be a motivation too? Shhhh!
In this regard, certain news dailies have reported in a matter-of-fact manner. After all, one cannot sugarcoat a truth all the time. Anonymous sources have claimed that increasing the revenue is also one of the prime objectives of this policy decision. In 2017-18 only, excise duty contributions to the state treasury were to the tune or Rs. 15,343 crore and that is a sizeable amount of money that no self-respective government can let go of. Not even if it means encouraging drinking, even at home.
The arguments in favor of home delivery of liquor ignore one basic fact – the alcohol consumption has not dipped even in face of bans. This is proved in figures presented by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). As per a report of NCRB, released a few years ago, one person died every 96 minutes from the effects of drinking alcohol. As per a WHO report, released around the same time, per capita alcohol consumption had increased by 38%, from 1.6 litres in 2003-05 to 2.2 litres in 2010-12.
And here is the worst part– according to the NCRB data, Maharashtra topped the alcohol-related deaths. So, even if one was to assume that it is liquor that the Maharashtrians are missing the most, the argument doesn’t hold water. In fact, there is abundance of alcohol, obviously, which is causing so much grief, simply because experts relate higher levels of alcohol consumption to higher rates of crime – Crimes, which include theft, murder, rape, road-rage and accidental deaths.
If we take seriously the government’s claim that allowing home delivery of alcohol would reduce the cases of drunken driving, does it mean we should assume that people would not leave home in their cars or on their two-wheelers after having a drink or two at home. Or are we to believe that the government is going to ask people to order drink at home and then ask them not to venture out? I am sorry, but the scenario looks a bit confusing.
People who are usually responsible don’t indulge in drunken driving, nor do they indulge in alcohol-related crimes. So, is this proposed govt. order a reward for such people to drink within the comforts of four-walls of their home? What about people who are going to home-order drinks, then go out into the streets and do what any self-respecting drunkard would do? Clearly, or not so clearly, there are some holes in the argument presented by the government. However, even before that, there is one burning question that needs to be asked – Is alcohol such an important commodity that it should be made so easily available at homes? Can’t the concerned Ministry and administrative officers think of anything better to do with their designated powers?
Alcohol is a vice that has gripped our society, irrespective of caste, creed, religion or economic status. People indulge in abominable crimes under its influence. Daughters get raped, murders happen, families are torn apart and destitute get killed on footpaths. Has the concerned department given a thought to a possible scenario like the following – a man goes out for a drink, he realizes he has to come back to his home and he needs to be sober enough for that. This is a case of someone who drinks till a responsible limit. So, what this home-delivery is going to give him is the incentive to break that limit. And, here, I am not even talking about people who become dead-drunk almost every day, and even those that have the financial means to do that.
As for the poor, they are not going to get home-delivery, of course, considering their financial status. There, the men will continue to splurge every single rupee they earn as daily wagers, into their tryst with the bottle, the women will continue to get beaten up every night even as they put hungry, emaciated and crying children to sleep because next day, they need to go to work too. I just wish the government would spare a thought for these children of lesser god too! Alcohol is not a necessity in our society; let us not make it one!