Hooch deaths are only ‘unfortunate’

Over a hundred people have died after taking spurious liquor in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The largest number of deaths happened in UP. The State Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has said that what has happened is “unfortunate.” It may be recalled that when police Sub-Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh was murdered with his own revolver at Bulandshahr by an irate mob, the CM had called it an “accident”. This shows an insensitivity that has now come to be associated with the bigwigs of the party. What nobody in the administration wants to admit is that huge networks of dishonest people are engaged in this lucrative but lethal business – not only in UP but in other States as well including West Bengal.
Methyl alcohol, which is not for drinking, is usually found to have been mixed with hooch.  Such tragedies have been occurring year after year in many States across the country. Each time the police and the Excise Department people of the concerned State talk of taking “strong steps” to prevent recurrence of such tragedies. But when the next tragedy occurs, people realize that nothing has been done. Spurious liquor business is a highly profitable one and this could not have been carried on by the operators of this killing trade with such impunity without the complicity of the police and the excise people. The policy of prohibition, introduced by several States, has failed to serve its ends. Liquor is freely available, but sold clandestinely and at a high price. Others who cannot afford black market price of what is funnily called “India-Made     Foreign Liquor (IMFL) go in for the desi maal or hooch. The States which introduced prohibition could not stamp out the money-spinning hooch trade which goes on merrily right under their nose, the hooch-makers and distributors, cocking a snook at the authorities.  
It is time the effectiveness and practicability of prohibition policy were critically examined. Prohibition has failed. It would be far better to allow all types of liquor to be sold legally, but with their alcohol content much reduced. The Government can pass a law to this effect. If ‘legal’ liquor is freely available, few would like to risk their lives by drinking spurious liquor which is deadly. The highly consumerist society that we have built has made drinking not only popular but fashionable. Even large numbers of women are found to have taken to drinking. This stark reality has to be kept in mind while introducing and enforcing prohibition.

Tuesday, 12 February, 2019