Analysis

Nitish ban on alcohol suppressed by media with secularism debate

It is amazing that while Hindutva ideologues went a long way in explaining what dharma mean, linking it with morality rather than rituals, they have not shown any enthusiasm in welcoming the Bihar government move. The Nitish government needs to make sure that the interested lobbies do not try to derail prohibition. From now onward, every single death due to illicit liquor will be highlighted by the media. The Bihar government has to ensure that the illicit liquor business remains fully under check and it is not used by the lobbies to advance the cause of lifting ban on alcohol.   

What Nitish has announced should have been welcomed and celebrated by all right-thinking people of the country, all those who believe in true morality and social peace. But the media purposely ignored it. While every day, without fail, there is a debate on “secularism”, “religious tolerance” or “intolerance” and related issues, I did not see any media debate on the historical decision of the Bihar government. After a long time, a state has chosen to go dry. The media, which in effect is nothing but an extension of corporate world, of course thought that any debate on the issue may trigger a popular movement in the country to do the same at the national level. Some other states may follow the example of Bihar.

According to T T Ranganathan Clinical Research Foundation, Chennai, 62.5 million alcohol users are estimated in India.  Due to its large population, India has been identified as the potentially third largest market for alcoholic beverages in the world which has attracted the attention of multinational liquor companies. According to the report, the market of alcohol has been growing steadily at 6 per cent and is estimated to grow at the rate of 8 per cent per year.  People now drink at an earlier age than previously. Changing social norms, urbanisation, increased availability, high-intensity mass marketing and relaxation of overseas trade rules along with poor level of awareness related to alcohol has contributed to increased alcohol use.

“Alcohol and public health” by Dr Vivek Benegal reports:

“Alcohol-related problems account for over a fifth of hospital admissions but are under recognised by primary care physicians. Alcohol misuse has been implicated in over 20 per cent of traumatic brain injuries and 60 per cent of all injuries reporting to emergency rooms. It has a disproportionately high association with deliberate self-harm, high-risk sexual behaviour, HIV infection, tuberculosis, oesophageal cancer, liver disease and duodenal ulcer. A study from the state of Karnataka in South India estimated that monetisable direct and indirect costs attributable to people with alcohol dependence alone, was more than three times the profits from alcohol taxation and several times more than the annual health budget of that state.”

Alcohol kills not only the drinkers themselves but is also a major factor in accidents, murders, suicides and rapes.

What is surprising is that Muslim organisations and leaders have not taken the lead in welcoming the ban and demanding similar bans in other states. The political parties, including BJP and Congress, have of course remained tight-lipped. While both have been following the corporate agenda over the years, the present government has surely outsmarted the previous governments in pursuing the agenda of corporatisation of the country. While the Prime Minister’s speech at the end of the debate on Constitution was partly reassuring, the fact remains that communalism is being used by the government-media-corporate nexus to cover up the corporatisation agenda. It is surprising that while Hindutva ideologues went a long way in explaining what dharma means linking with morality rather than rituals, they have not shown any enthusiasm in welcoming the Bihar government move.  

    The author is a Delhi-based thinker and writer with over a dozen books including his latest, Qur’anic Paradigms of Sciences & Society (first bol: Health). He may be contacted at doctorforu123@yahoo.com

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 February 2016 on page no. 11

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