Death by hooch – India needs a more honest discussion on the risks and benefits of prohibition

Source: This post is based on the article “Death by hooch – India needs a more honest discussion on the risks and benefits of prohibition” published in The Hindu on 28th July 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Relevance: About the challenges associated with the prohibition of alcohol.

News: Gujarat is one of the four States in India that prohibits alcohol. The recent hooch tragedy in Gujarat claimed over 40 lives and brings again the contentious question of prohibition. The victims consumed poisonous methyl alcohol.

Note: The Gujarat High Court is considering five petitions that challenge the constitutional validity of the Gujarat Prohibition Act, 1949 on grounds that it violates fundamental rights including privacy.

What are the impacts of the prohibition of alcohol.?

This shows the a) Complicity of the administration in protecting the black market for alcohol after prohibition, b) a vast network of illegal manufacturing and sale of liquor could exist without the patronage of the police and politicians, c) Though prohibition is listed among the Directive Principles of state policy in the Constitution, no State has been able to achieve it with any enduring effectiveness, and d) The prohibition laws give sweeping and intrusive powers to the police. In Gujarat, for example, police used them against political protesters.

Must read: Prohibition of Liquor: Benefits and Challenges – Explained, pointwise
What should be done?

Several political parties in India carry a moral burden to discourage or bar alcohol consumption. Rather than clinging to dogmas and impossible goals of social reform through coercive law, there must be a more honest discussion on prohibition.

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