THE LIQUOR HIGH

India Today - - COVER STORY -

rep­u­ta­tion for good gov­er­nance, and both have had three con­sec­u­tive terms as chief min­is­ters. The only dif­fer­ence is, un­like Modi, Ni­tish lacks a party with a pan-In­dia or­gan­i­sa­tion. Again, it’s the pro­hi­bi­tion gam­bit that Ku­mar is bank­ing on here, his sup­port­ers ar­gu­ing that the back­ing it gar­ners across the coun­try will help him along. Liquor con­sump­tion within In­dia is, quite lit­er­ally, on a high. A 2015 study by the Of­fice of Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and Devel­op­ment (OECD) found per capita con­sump­tion of al­co­hol in In­dia grow­ing at 55 per cent be­tween 1992 and 2012, the third fastest in the world. A sec­ond study, by the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion Report in 2014, found that per capita con­sump­tion had in­creased 38 per cent in the last decade, from 1.6 litres in 2003-05 to 2.2 litres in 2010-12.

It also found that over 11 per cent of In­dia’s pop­u­la­tion are binge drinkers (the global av­er­age is 16 per cent). This has trans­lated into the so­cially de­bil­i­tat­ing malaise of al­co­hol abuse. In Tamil Nadu, for in­stance, some seven mil­lion of the 68 mil­lion pop­u­la­tion, mostly from the lower so­cial strata, are ad­dicted to al­co­hol. Boom­ing liquor vends de­liver al­co­hol to the doorsteps of drinkers, even on credit, fuelling a vi­cious cy­cle of debt, al­co­holism and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

In neigh­bour­ing Ker­ala, where per capita con­sump­tion of al­co­hol is twice the na­tional av­er­age—8.3 litres of hard liquor—the Al­co­hol and Drug In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre of In­dia links 69 per cent of crime, 40 per cent of road ac­ci­dents and 80 per cent of di­vorce and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence cases to the con­sump­tion of drugs and al­co­hol.

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