Skip to main content

Lacking all-India horizon, Anna's anti-liquor ‘protest’ smacked of political bias

By Bharat Dogra* 

As widely reported, the veteran activist Anna Hazare has withdrawn his fast scheduled to start on February 14 -- at least for the time being. Earlier he had stated that he will be starting a fast on February 14 if the Maharashtra Government does not take back its recent decisions aimed at increasing liquor sales.
On January 27 the Maha Vikas Aghadi government decided to allow the sale of wine at supermarkets and walk-in stores with an area over 100 square feet. On February 9 Anna Hazare said that he had already written two letters to the chief minister asking him to take back this decision but he had not yet received any response.
However, soon after this this officials contacted him to inform that the government will first take this issue widely among citizens for their viewpoint, and only after getting their opinion will the government take any final decision. Keeping in view this assurance of the government, Anna has adopted a wait and watch policy for some time.
However, this is not just an issue of Maharashtra. In most states governments are trying to increase excise receipts by opening more and more liquor vends. In addition they are taking other steps to increase liquor availability. Hence Anna should think in terms of national level demands and movement. Secondly being elderly and fragile he should avoid a fast and instead prepare for a long drawn movement as well as campaign to check increasing liquor consumption.
Soon after the Maharashtra government had announced its decision on January 27, it was reported that this will result in significant increase of wine consumption. Hence the concerns of Anna Hazare can be understood. It is well-known that alcohol consumption is responsible for 3 million deaths in a year in world, nearly one-sixth of these in India.
In addition increase of consumption of alcohol in India has been linked to more crimes and violence almost all over India, particularly to physical and sexual violence against women. Millions of households have sunk deeper into poverty as a result of increasing alcohol consumption, and accidents have increased.
As all this has happened at all-India level, the concerns of such a nationally well-known activist like Anna Hazare should have an all-India context and should not be confined to increase of alcohol consumption in Maharashtra alone. The kind of changes being made in Maharashtra to increase alcohol consumption have been reported in several other parts of India also.
In fact when BJP leaders in Maharashtra criticised the Maharashtra government’s recent decision, the ruling parties there responded that a state ruled by the BJP, Madhya Pradesh, has recently taken even more sweeping decisions to increase liquor consumption!
A report by News 18 titled ‘Liquor: Big Discounts, Wine in Supermarkets, Price Drop’ summarised some recent changes. Regarding Madhya Pradesh this report stated that liquor sales will be allowed in supermarkets in four leading cities and those with Rs. one crore income will get private bar sanction. This report said that in Kolkata also measures have been taken to make available chaper liquor.
Anna Hazare should also be concerned about what his own former disciples now in power in Delhi have been doing in the capital of India. The News 18 review has pointed out that alcohol has been made hugely cheaper in Delhi after implementation of a new rule to privatise liquor vendors and allowing them to offer discounts on the retail price. The number of dry days has been reduced.
The “Economic Times” reported that the Delhi government’s new excise policy has decided to open liquor shops in non-conforming areas (in practice this generally implies opening more liquor vends in unauthorised colonies closer to the homes of working class people and poorer households, making it much easier for them to buy liquor close to their home).
Earlier on June 11, 2021 the “Mint” reported that changes in Delhi alcohol rules are being welcomed by tipplers. This report stated that with 18 out of 21 amendments in action, residents of Delhi can place orders for alcohol via website and mobile apps for home delivery. This report stated that restaurants and pubs will be allowed to serve booze in open spaces and even source brews directly from microbrewers.
Another report in “Mint” on July 6 mentioned further measures to promote liquor consumption in Delhi including extension of bar timings, encouragement to microbrewers and discounts. An even earlier report from the city mentioned ( as an achievement of the government!) the increase ease in getting permission for serving alcohol at weddings and similar functions.
A very recent report in the Mint dated January 31, 2022 stated that following Maharashtra decision to sell wine in supermarkets and walk-in shops, the Karnataka government may become the next government to take a similar decision. This report quoted the Excise Minister of Karnataka as stating that the state will be sending a delegation to Maharashtra to learn from the experience there before taking a final decision!
In Himachal Pradesh the highly nutritious fruit apple is being used to make wine on a significant scale, and there have been media reports of even using other fruits and medicinal tea leaves to turn them into raw material for wine. Apple wine and fruit wine are being sold in general shops and groceries.
A state ruled by the BJP, Madhya Pradesh, has recently taken even more sweeping decisions to increase liquor consumption
Hence, efforts to increase liquor consumption have spread to many state governments and so Anna Hazare should have an All-India focus in his movement. This will also help him to rise above the criticism that his movements often serve the agenda of right-wing forces including the BJP and the Sangh Parivar, as happened at the time of the Lokpal agitation. As time has shown, this hardly achieved anything important for the people but helped the political interests of right-wing forces.
So this time Anna should be impartial in targeting all governments which have been promoting liquor consumption, without any political bias, and he should not hesitate to ask his former disciples some difficult questions in this context. In addition he must also ask the union government to be more generous in meeting urgent fund requirements of state governments so that they do not become too dependent on revenue from liquor sales, as has been happening in recent times.
As this issue has heated up some politicians have even argued that wine is not liquor. This mistaken notion should be quickly corrected.The alcohol content in wine including red wine is two to six times higher than in beer, more generally it is about three times higher. The alcohol content of red wine ranges from 8 to 18 per cent. The alcohol content of beer ranges generally from 2 to 9 per cent, it is more commonly 4 to 5 per cent.
To make a further distinction, the alcohol content of wines ranges from 8 to 14 per cent while the alcohol content of fortified wines ranges from 16 to 22 per cent. When the alcohol content of wines is so much higher than beer ( and of course it is the same ethyl alcohol) then of course it follows that people can get more easily drunk on wine and also that this can be more addictive.
“The Telegraph” (UK) reported on December 1, 2014 in a news item titled “Drinking a glass of wine is the same as downing three shots of Vodka” --“Enjoying a glass of wine after work does the same harm as downing three shots of vodka , the head of Public Health England has warned as he said alcohol was becoming the silent killer of working class Britons.”
In the recent debate some politicians also related wine consumption increase to helping farmers which again is completely false. In fact increase in wine and liquor consumption has led to diversion of scarce water away from farmers. Apart from serious health hazards various aspects of making wine are associated with heavy eco-costs. The Economist reported some time back that it takes 960 liters of water to make a single liter of wine (based on data from Water Footprints Network).
“Decanter” magazine pointed out in a review of the eco-costs of the wine industry, “Synthetic fungicides, herbicides and fertilizers, non-degradable materials and environmentally harmful have been integral to the cultivation, packaging and transportation of wine.”
---
*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now; recent books include “Man over Machine (Gandhian Ideas for Our Times)” and “Protecting Earth For Children”

Comments

TRENDING

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Why no information with Assam state agency about female rhino poaching for a year?

By Nava Thakuria   According to official claims, incidents of poaching related to rhinoceros in various forest reserves of Assam in northeast India have decreased drastically. Brutal laws against the poachers, strengthening of ground staff inside the protected forest areas and increasing public awareness in the fringe localities of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the State are the reasons cited for positively impacting the mission to save the one-horned rhinos. Officials records suggest, only two rhinos were poached in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve since 1 January 2021 till date. The last incident took place probably in the last week of December 2021, as a decomposed carcass of a fully-grown (around 30 years old) female rhino was recovered inside the world-famous forest reserve next month. As the precious horn was missing, for which the gigantic animal was apparently hunted down, it could not be a natural death. Ironically, however, it was not confirmed when

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Bangladesh 'rights violations': US softens stance, fears increased clout of China, India

By Tilottama Rani Charulata*  In December 2021, in addition to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and current officers of the force, alleging serious human rights violations. Benazir Ahmed and former RAB-7 commander Miftah Uddin Ahmed were banned from entering the US. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the US and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad. The anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, RAB is the elite force consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Civil Service and Bangladesh Ansar, and has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances. The government of Bangladesh has been insisting about lifting the ban on RAB, but the US had till recen