Skip to main content

Govt of India proliferating liquor sale in J&K amidst 'extra-strong' action in Delhi

By Bharat Dogra* 

At a time of increasing concern worldwide over the highly adverse social and health impacts of alcohol as well as its increasing consumption, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has voluntarily remained a region of low alcohol consumption. Cultural as well as religious factors have played an important role in this -- the region is known for strong social traditions against liquor as well as for its several famous pilgrimage places of various religions.
Ignoring all this, unfortunately, the administration, which is run by the Government of India, has embarked on a policy of increasing liquor sales and consumption, leading to widespread discontent and opposition.
A large number of new places were identified earlier by the administration for establishing liquor sale points, as also reported in media. Now the latest decision announced very recently has been to allow the sale of beer and ready to drink alcohol beverages in departmental stores. 
These decisions and the overall pro-liquor policy of the administration are increasingly being seen as an assault on local culture and good traditions which will seriously harm health and social fabric.
Hence regardless of other differences, people are getting united in opposing this. Almost all leading opposition parties are opposing this and they are also reminding some senior BJP leaders of what happened to their earlier opposition to liquor. People of different religions and regions are one in opposing this highly damaging policy.
At a time when the government has taken extra-strong actions against AAP leaders of Delhi regarding corruption in liquor policy, questions are bound to be raised regarding for whose benefit the administration in J&K is going out of its way to increase liquor sales in a region which is otherwise known for low alcohol consumption. Will the government be as serious about investigating this as it was about investigating the alleged liquor scam in Delhi?
Although narrow-minded efforts have been made to depict this growing opposition as mainly coming from Muslim fundamentalist forces, the reality is that a leading secular political party like the Congress was among the first to condemn this policy in strong terms. The National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party have also condemned this policy clearly aimed at increasing liquor sales and consumption. Several women and youth organizations are very upset by this policy.
Here it should be remembered that according to the World Status report on Alcohol 2018 prepared by the WHO, in a typical year 3 million people die worldwide due to many-sided harmful impacts of liquor. 
This report tells us that in 2016, of all deaths attributable to alcohol consumption worldwide, 28.7% were due to injuries, 21.3% due to digestive diseases, 19% due to cardiovascular diseases, 12.9% due to infectious diseases and 12.6% due to cancers. Alcohol consumption is a leading cause of road and other accidents.
Explaining the situation further this report tells us that the health and social harms from drinking alcohol occur through three main interrelated mechanisms:
1) the toxic effects of alcohol on diverse organs and tissues in the consumer’s body (resulting, for instance, in liver disease, heart disease or cancer);
2) development of alcohol dependence whereby the drinker’s self-control over his or her drinking is impaired, often involving alcohol-induced mental disorders such as depression or psychoses; and
3) through intoxication – the psychoactive effects of alcohol in the hours after drinking
.The WHO report refers to expansive literature which shows that alcohol intoxication can increase dysphoria, cognitive dysfunction, impulsivity and intensity of suicidal ideation. People have approximately seven times increased risk for a suicide attempt soon after drinking alcohol, and this risk further increases to 37 times after heavy use of alcohol. 
The alcohol-attributable fraction for suicide was estimated to be as high as 18% It is also known that the presence of AUDs (Alcohol Use Disorders) at least doubles the risk of having depression.
This report points out that the potential effects of alcohol include impairment in attention, cognition and dexterity (which are important for such activities as driving a car); aggressive impulses and loss of behavioural control (important for criminal violence); and alcohol poisoning (which can be fatal).
Further this report tells us that alcohol poisoning is a consequence of drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. Drinking too much in a short period of time can affect breathing, heart rate, body temperature and gag reflex and may result in a coma and death. In comparisons with other psychoactive substances, alcohol is among the most lethal in terms of how close the amounts used for psychoactive effects are to the median amount that is lethal.
While poisoning clusters from contaminated alcohol often receive global press coverage, poisoning with ordinary beverage alcohol – usually in concentrated form such as distilled beverages – is an everyday reality in many societies, although it is often under-recorded in health statistics.
The harmful use of alcohol is a component cause of more than 200 diseases and injury conditions, the most notable being alcohol dependence, liver cirrhosis, cancers and injuries, the latest causal relationships established are those between alcohol consumption and incidence of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDs.
However, the alcohol industry and its lobbyists have worked overtime to ensure that the massive adverse impacts of alcohol consumption are not reported adequately and properly so that people do not become aware about the full dimensions of these tragic impacts.
A recent study led by scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute has concluded that the alcohol industry “uses denial, distortion and distraction to mislead people about the risks of developing cancer from drinking, often employing similar tactics to those of the tobacco industry." 
Earlier also heavy drinking was linked to damage to brain, adverse impact of memory and dementia, but recent findings by researchers of Oxford University and University College London ( published in British Medical Journal) has found that this damage is possible also at much lower alcohol consumption.
This is also confirmed by another study involving 1300 women in the USA. Brain damage is likely to be higher in the case of binge drinking, particularly binge drinking involving adolescents.
Although the highly adverse impacts of alcohol consumption are very well-known, the alcohol industry has been trying for quite some time to somehow spread the myth that moderate levels are not a problem.
However, an extensive study based on 195 countries which was published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet (August 2018) concluded clearly that not even one drink a day is safe. Max Griswold, lead author for a group of over 500 experts said, “There is no safe level of alcohol,” “Overall, the health risks associated with alcohol rose in line with the amount consumed each day." Compared to abstinence, just one drink a day can lead to 1,00,000 additional deaths each year.
The World Report on Violence and Health (WRVH) has drawn attention to the impact of alcohol in increasing crime and violence , including sexual violence. The WRVH says that both from the perspective of the assaulter and the victim, alcohol and drug consumption increases the risk of sexual violence, including rape.
According to a widely cited paper on ‘alcohol and sexual assaults’ by Antonia Abbey, Tina Zawacki and others of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (USA), “ atleast one half of all violent crimes involved alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, the victim or both.
Sexual violence fits this pattern. Thus across disparate population studies, researchers consistently have found that approximately one half of all sexual assaults are committed by men who have been drinking alcohol.
According to the WHO, alcohol consumption in adolescents, especially binge drinking, negatively affects school performance, increases participation in crime and leads to risky sexual behavior.
The WRVH report says that reducing the availability of liquor can be an important community strategy to reduce crime and violence as research has shown alcohol to be an importat situational factor that can precipitate violence.

There are very heavy social costs of alcohol consumption in the form of various forms of violence, crime and disruption of relationships. The WHO status report has presented various estimates that have been made from time to time about financial implications of these social costs:
i) Estimate for the European Union, Year 2003 - 125 billion euros
ii) Estimate for UK, Year 2009 – 21 billion pounds
iii) Estimate for USA, Year 2006 – 233 billion dollars
iv) Estimate for South Africa, Year 2009 – 300 billion Rand (10-12 per cent of GNP)
Keeping in view all these aspects, the recent efforts to increase alcohol consumption In Jammu and Kashmir ( as also in Himachal Pradesh, where sales in bigger departmental stores were approved some time back) should be widely opposed.
---
*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. Recent books include ‘Planet in Peril’, ‘A Day in 2071’, ‘Navjeevan’ and books in English and Hindi on adverse impacts of liquor

Comments

TRENDING

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl

Corporate-political party nexus? Rise and rise of Gautam Adani under Modi regime

By Sandeep Pandey*  In last five years Rs 10,09,510 crore taken as loans by various companies from banks in India have been declared as Non Performing Assets, an euphemism for writing them off. Out of this State Bank of India alone wrote off Rs 2,04,486 crore. Only about 13% of the total written off amount was recovered. Identity of the defaulting borrowers, most of whom are influential corporates, is not revealed. Compare this to the loans taken by farmers. The names of defaulting farmers is displayed on walls in tehsil offices to shame them and some unlucky ones also land up in lock-ups there. On the contrary, a few corporate defaulters have fled the country and quite curiously the authorities didn’t seize their passports like they do with some dissenting intellectuals or activists booked under mostly false cases. Now consider the donations received by political parties in the form of electoral bonds. The identity of the donor need not be revealed even to the Election Commission or i

Facing tough times, Rajasthan's Raika herders hold first-ever camel cheese festival

By Rosamma Thomas*  During the pandemic, the annual Pushkar camel fair in Rajasthan did not occur for fear of contagion; in 2022, it was called off again as lumpy skin disease affected cattle. At Sadri in Pali district, however, festivity continues – a two-day Camel Cheese Festival was held on November 23 and 24, 2022. Visitors spent time with the camel herds and their Raika, drank camel-milk tea with the herders and then returned to lunch at the Kumbhalgarh Camel Dairy, from where the Kumbhalgarh Fort is visible, to taste camel cheese. The Raika herders have been facing a tough time – camels are no longer used as much for transport or agriculture in Rajasthan. The animals have limited utility, but their milk is prized. Camel Charisma, the dairy at Kumbhalgarh, sends camel milk across the country to people who use it in therapy – for autistic children, improved blood sugar levels, or even to treat cancer. It is believed that the health benefits of the camel milk is because the animals

BJP-RSS trap opposition in 'futile row' around Savarkar, freedom movement

By Prem Singh*  Everything in this article is just a repetition. I have been saying all this since 1991-92. It is obvious that the Congress and the RSS/BJP do not like my ideas. But most socialists, advocates of social justice and communists also dislike my thoughts. I watch their measures and efforts to deal with the present crisis with interest. I respect them and also participate. Yet, the fact it, we fall behind again and again, and the crisis goes ahead. Instead of being a solution-providers, we are seen to be a part of the crisis. How long will this last? Perhaps, if the new generation thinks differently, things may turn for better! 1 To say that modern Indian society and politics are passing through the deepest crisis ever will surely be a repetition. The crisis is deeper than the spreading of communal hatred we witness around us. In fact, the business of communal hatred is flourishing by taking its manure and water from the deep crisis. The crisis of neo-colonial slavery is pro

Carbon abatement to tackle climate change: India's failure has 'outpaced' its success

By Satorupa Karmakar*  On November 01, 2021, India took a pledge of reaching a carbon-zero stage by 2070, at the COP-26 held in Glasgow, UK. As ‘ambitious’ and dubious it may sound to some, with a short-term delay in renewable energy generation (which gained the pace post-September 2020) and drastic fall in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission level as COVID-19 emerged as a ‘necessary evil’ , the path of India’s clean energy mission could be seen being paved throughout this time. Currently ranked as the third largest GHG emitter in the world, India is projected to demand more energy in coming years due to a large population base (1.3 billion as per 2011 Census data) and primarily coal-based fast-growing economy. Rapid industrialisation in post-colonial developing countries like India, stimulated by a larger and cheaper pool of fossil fuels and labour-force depicted a continuous upsurge in temperature, heavy precipitation in some places with an overall declining rainfall and a burgeoning soc

Demand to withdraw 'anti-environment, anti-adivasi' forest conservation rules 2022

By Gopinath Majhi*  The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, a coalition of adivasis and forest dwellers’ organisations, has sent a memorandum to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) raising serious concerns over Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, notified by the Centre on June 29.  Contending that recent amendments and a host of executive orders/guidelines issued by the ministry undermine and dilute the FRA and threaten the rights of adivasis and forest dwellers, CSD demands that the 2022 FC Rules should be rescinded forthwith. Demanding withdrawal of such anti-people and anti-environment rules CSD Odisha organised a protest Dharana in front of State Assembly today on 25th November 2022 and submitted memorandums to the Hon’ble Governor of Odisha, Chief Secretary and Commissioner-cum-Secretary, ST & SC Development Department for conveying our concerns against the FC Rules 2022 to the Central Government for its withdrawal. The memorandums w

GM mustard not swadeshi, it's a patent of MNC Bayer, GoI 'misleading' SC: Modi told

Counterview Desk  In a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as many as 42 farmers’ organisations though their representatives , backed by senior scientists and experts, have said that the Government of India (GoI) should stop misleading the Supreme Court “with untrue and incorrect” statements on GM mustard. Insisting that India does not need unsafe GM mustard, in their representation, they urged the Supreme Court to order immediate uprooting of GM mustard crop in various locations. The representation comes even as a penal of experts, coming down heavily on the GoI for refusing to see how in less than a week’s time the pollen from GM mustard will “start contaminating” non-GM mustard fields with transgenes, including male sterility and herbicide tolerant traits. Alleging that the GoI is actively misleading the Supreme Court with untrue and incorrect statements on GM mustard, Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India said, “We can list at least five areas where Gov

Shedding Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan? New Modi-Shah love for Tamil Nadu 'ignores' Periyar

By Sandeep Pandey*   The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) or the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) have long argued for ‘Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan’, which into recent years has translated into a crisper English expression: ‘One Nation-One Religion-One Language’. Given this backdrop, it is curious that the BJP government has organised the Kashi Tamil Sangamam in Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s constituency. Why did the BJP and RSS feel the need for such an event? All Narendra Modi events are highly publicised and have multiple political objectives. It is never an innocuous religious/cultural event as it may appear from the face of it. Afterall, RSS calls itself a cultural organisation, but has never ceased to surprise us with its political designs. Tamil Nadu has a long history of opposing imposition of Hindi by Union governments. Periyar EV Ramasamy had opposed the idea of compulsory teaching in Hindi as far back as in 1937. The 1960s witnessed violent protests against Hindi in which a number

Never-ending saga of sin tax: What if murder is taxed at Rs 1 crore, rape at Rs 5 crore?

By Moses Raj GS, Sangeetha Thomas*  What should have ended by June 30, 2022 as a 5 year experiment has resurfaced. The government has extended the levy of GST compensation cess by another 4 years till March 31, 2026. This cess, dubbed as the sin tax imposed on sin(ful) goods, is double the highest slab on indirect taxes. But only a few pay for it and the majority benefit, unendingly. The year 2017 is a landmark year for indirect taxes. With the grand idea of ‘One Nation, One Tax’ as a fiscal slogan subsuming all State based taxes such as octroi /entry tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), sales tax, taxes on lottery, betting and gambling, luxury tax, purchase tax, entertainment tax, property tax, professional tax and central sales tax into a single framework of Goods and Services Tax (GST) changed the contours of revenue collection. Complicating it further, India, with each State having its own size and revenue problems, has the most complex and highly centralised indirect tax structure in the w

'Extremist' US Hindu global group funding hate against Indian Churches: NGO groups

Counterview Desk  As many as 14 civil rights and faith-based organizations in co-signing a letter to the US Senators, Representatives, State Governor, and other elected officials have demanded the FBI, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Department of Justice should investigate into Texas-based organization Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) a fundraiser campaign for demolishing churches in India. Co-signed by Federation of Indian American Christian Organization in North America (FIACONA), North American Church of God, Southern Methodist University (SMU) Human Rights Program, Amnesty International - Dallas, World Without Genocide, Center for Pluralism, Genocide Watch, The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Limitless Church, Justice for All, Hindu for Human Rights, North Texas Peace Advocates, Good Citizens of DFW, and the North Texas Islamic Council, the letter has been sent to Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz; Representatives Michael C Burgess, Pat Fallon, Van Taylor, Terr