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As widely reported, the veteran activist Anna Hazare has withdrawn his fast scheduled to start on February 14 -- at least for the time being.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

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

Attack on Gaza: Western media 'went out of the way' to obscure, protect perpetrators

By Sonali Kolhatkar*  Israeli forces killed more than a hundred Palestinians and wounded more than 700 on February 29, 2024 during a distribution of food aid in Gaza city, pushing the Palestinian death toll to 30,000 since October 7, 2023. The food aid massacre was straightforward in its deadliness as armed Israeli forces aimed weapons at desperate, hungry Palestinian civilians and killed many of them. It was also plausible within the context of who has firepower and who doesn’t, and wholly consistent with Israeli atrocities, especially those committed since October 7, 2023.

Living standards in 'model' Gujarat worse than major states: Govt of India document

By Rajiv Shah  Amidst raging controversy over whether the latest Government of India’s “Household Consumption Expenditure Survey 2022-23 Fact Sheet: August 2022-July 2023” suggests that India’s poverty levels are actually down to 4.5 to 5%  during the decade-long Narendra Modi rule, a state-wise breakup in the 27-page document shows that “model” Gujarat’s average consumption expenditure is far below most of the so-called developed states.

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

Not livable in summer, Chitrakut PM-Awas houses 'push' tribals in moneylender trap

By Bharat Dogra*  Those who are in-charge of implementing the PM-Awas scheme of rural housing can rightly take pride in what has been achieved in Dafai hamlet (Karvi block, Chitrakut district, Uttar Pradesh). All the Kol tribal families here are extremely poor and vulnerable. In a rare achievement, almost all of them have received housing assistance under PM Awas. 

Stressing on standardisation, efficiency, capitalists 'intensify' workers' exploitation

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The productivist ideology lies at the core of the profit-making pyramid of capitalism. It perpetuates a relentless cycle characterized by busy schedules, workplace tension, an imbalance in work-life equilibrium, and a pervasive sense of alienation. 

Development? This tribal hamlet in Chitrakut has no toilets, no electricity connections yet

By Bharat Dogra*  As we moved away from the starting point of the Bundelkhand Expressway and a famous pilgrimage site into a side-road, the hills of Chitrakut here appeared to be more and more isolated. Another turn, and we appeared to have reached almost a dead-end. However it is here that over 80 households of the Kol tribal community have been living for a long time.

WTO 'loses legitimacy': CSOs shut out of normal participation in MC13 at Abu Dhabi

By Deborah James  Given unprecedented repression of participants, the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) at Abu Dhabi should not continue until historical and international standards and human rights for participation in global governance are restored.

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".