THE LIQUOR HIGH
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.