In cocktail of pop­ulism, pro­hi­bi­tion new heady mix

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Krit­ti­vas Mukher­jee krit­ti­vas.mukher­jee@hin­dus­tan­

NEW DELHI: At the height of an­tial­co­hol protests in Tamil Nadu last year, Sasi Peru­mal went up a tele­phone tower with a can of kerosene, threat­en­ing to set him­self on fire un­less a lo­cal liquor shop was closed. As po­lice tried to per­suade him to come down, Peru­mal ap­peared to suf­fer a fa­tal car­diac ar­rest.

The 59-year-old cam­paigner’s death marked a turn­around in the de­bate over pro­hi­bi­tion in the state, with all po­lit­i­cal par­ties promis­ing to ban or re­strict al­co­hol if voted to power in elec­tions next month.

The Tamil par­ties are the lat­est to back pro­hi­bi­tion in In­dia, where a grow­ing num­ber of grass­roots move­ments are push­ing lo­cal govern­ments to ban drink­ing. But more than any moral force, politi­cians ap­pear to back such calls be­cause they dove­tail into the rights of women, a sub­stan­tial vote-bank in any state.

“There is rich po­lit­i­cal div­i­dend to be had from sup­port­ing pro­hi­bi­tion,” Suhas Pal­shikar, pro­fes­sor of pol­i­tics and pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion at the Univer­sity of Pune, told the Hin­dus­tan Times.

“The prom­ise to in­tro­duce pro­hi­bi­tion is seen as one of the rea­sons Ni­tish Kumar may have re­ceived wide sup­port among women vot­ers in last year’s elec­tions in Bi­har.”

In­dia’s ex­pe­ri­ence with pro­hi­bi­tion is patchy.

In the 1990s, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu briefly swore off the bot­tle be­fore a cash crunch drove the states to see al­co­hol’s rev­enue-earn­ing power. Bi­har ex­per­i­mented with pro­hi­bi­tion in the 1970s but lax en­force­ment saw the ban be­ing even­tu­ally lifted.


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