Monday 21st Jan 2019
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Hazard of Alcoholism Who is Responsible?

Cover Story

, by ZAID ARIF

“Drinking age increased to 25! Err…old and mature enough to vote for the country, or join army and fight for the nation, but not mature enough to be told when you are allowed to drink? Strange?! At 23, Sid Mallya is GM and owner of the third largest liquor company in the world. But guess what? It’s illegal for him to drink,” tweeted Amitabh Bachchan in June 2011 after the government of Maharashtra raised the drinking age to 25. One cannot say for sure whether Amitabh Bachchan is doing mockery of the government’s decision to raise the drinking age or criticising it to permit 21-year-olds to run a liquor shop.

On the one hand the government says it is trying to discourage the tendency of drinking among youngsters by raising the drinking age to 25.  While on the other, it is, intentionally or unintentionally, promoting the same by granting licences to 21-year-olds to become a bar tender and serve alcohol to others without having a sip of it. And I think that’s why the number of alcoholics is increasing day in and day out despite several warnings from the government.

Once I was sitting with some of my friends at Ganga Dhaba of Jawahar Lal Nehru University, New Delhi, and was having a discussion on heavy consumption of alcohol in the campus when a student, sitting nearby, joined us saying, “You people seem not to have enjoyed alcohol yet. Have a sip of it and forget all the hardships of your life…Apart from it, modest use of alcohol is good for health as well.” Yes, ‘alcohol washes off all the sufferings and miseries of life’ and ‘it is a health giving substance if consumed in a moderate way.’

Both points are very popular among students and youngsters. They usually narrate these two points to justify their drinking habit as, they say, they are always under pressure of examinations and stress followed by it and likewise. They need profoundly something to help reduce their stress and maintain their health as well. In such circumstances they claim they find alcohol fulfilling both their needs. So, does alcohol really reduce tensions and help maintain health?

“Alcohol depresses nervous system of human body and brain, under its influence, loses its control over other parts of body. The notion that a person after drinking alcohol feels relaxed is simply because he is nearly unconscious,” says Dr. Mohd. Aslam Alig of Misbah Clinic, Mumbra, Maharashtra. He further elaborated it saying, “You may beat a person under influence of alcohol as severely as you can and he will not realise the pain because the part of mind which has the emotions and feelings does not work under the influence of intoxicants. He will feel the pain once he is discharged from its influence.” Also a joint survey of Oxford University and Kings College of London states that the depression level among those who smoke is higher in comparison with the persons who do not smoke. The study was published in British Journal of Psychiatry.

Dr. Aslam, while replying to a question whether alcohol is a health giving substance if consumed in a modest way, said, “It damages not only liver and pancreas but also destroys the whole digestive system. So how could a person with ruined digestive system enjoy good health? The body of an alcoholic might swell off and he feels like being healthy.”

While interacting with the students of three major universities of India – Aligarh Muslim University, Jamia Millia Islamia and Jawahar Lal Nehru University – I found that the sole reason behind growing tendency of consumption of alcohol and drug abuse among students is to reduce the burden of studies while a majority of them were of the view that they consume alcohol sometimes for fun and some other times to project that they are also from the elite class. It is true that a large number of youngsters are alcoholic in India because they think being alcoholic and drug-addict proves their so-called elevated or modern thinking. So the children who do not have access to large sums of money and hence could not buy alcohol look out for other substances like whitener and nail-polish remover as substitutes.

Study reveals that the consumption of whitener worth Rs. 24 lakh per day has been increased to Rs. 67 lakh per day in two years. Chetna, an NGO, finds in its survey that the number of drug-addicted ‘school children’ has been increased to 40 per cent in 2009 as compared to 31 per cent in 2008. The survey was done on the rehabilitation centre of All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. It further says that a majority of students aged between 14 and 17 years are using drugs in some form or the other, say brown sugar. Vinod Tikku, Member of National Child Right Protection Commission, says that the use of white inhaler for intoxication is increasing alarmingly among students. It deactivates the brain cells very fast. A survey of National AIDS Control Organisation shows that as many as 1,77,000 people in the country — 30,000 among whom are female — use drugs through injection.

Everyone knows that the use of alcoholic substances and intoxicants is highly injurious to health and it is illegal as well. Still the number of its users is increasing by the day. Atul Kumar, a student of law at Aligarh Muslim University, says though the use of intoxicants is a punishable offence in the country, the law did not seem to prevent youngsters from falling prey to it. It has become necessary now to amend the existing law to make it more relevant in the present context so that the younger generation can be protected. In this regard amendment to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act is the need of the hour and apart from it, it is also the responsibility of parents to help their children to grow up in the righteous manner. According to Dr. Atul Ambedkar of AIIMS, New Delhi, ”Children could be saved (form intoxications) provided parents take care of their day long activities. As far as the rehabilitation of drug-addicts and alcoholics is concerned, the social and filial cooperation (to help them relinquish it) is the best way.”

As far as the adoption of bad habits by children is concerned, both, the parents and the government should be taken responsible for that. In the perspective of drug abuse and alcoholism, every parent advocates for strict laws. But when it comes to implementing the same on their own children, it becomes hard for them because most of the parents are drunkards themselves. Despite considering drinking a bad and dreadful habit, one fails to understand what makes people to go for it. I met an alcoholic at some de-addiction centre and wanted to know the reason why they could not relinquish the habit despite the fact that it made their lives hell for them and for others as well. He replied simultaneously, “Only a strong will power can help you stop drinking.” Just to explain it that without a strong will power you cannot even think moulding your habit of ‘coming late in the office with a new excuse every day’. I know some persons who pledged not to drink and finally gave up and it became possible only because of strong will power and the call from within.

Form the legal angle, the first point to be taken necessarily into consideration before enacting a law is to turn the climate to its favour. Islam successfully implemented its anti-intoxicants law upon those who were highly addicted to it in the past by trying to purify their mindset at the very first stage.  And without doing that, only constituting strict laws cannot be effective on the desired lines. It needs some serious and consistent efforts to introduce even a little change in the society. In the pretext of anti-alcoholism and drug abuse, the government is playing a double game. It raises the drinking age at one hand and grants licences to the 21-year-olds to own a bar and pub and serve liquor to others because the liquor yields it heavy revenue. It seems that maintaining high exchequer is more important than the welfare of public in the eyes of government.

CN Shankar Rao writes in his book Sociology of Indian Society, “The government should take appropriate legal and administrative steps to introduce prohibition on the sale of liquor. If supply is not there, one can expect the demand to die down at least gradually. In the Indian context, the state governments are not prepared to introduce prohibition for the simple reason that they get a lot of income for the state treasury by way of tax imposed on the sale of liquor... They must understand that promoting people’s welfare is the primary duty of the Government. They must make alternative arrangements to collect revenue.” He further writes on the issue of controlling the heavy consumption of alcoholism, “It is necessary to provide for good entertainment facilities at affordable costs for the labour class to discourage them to resort to alcohol.”

The last point to be added here is that religious instruction always plays a pivotal role to address people’s sentiments as it works like a GPS installed on the top. And it is not hard to understand this point in the pretext of recent gang-rape in Delhi. Furthermore, the National Council for Educational Research and Training is thinking to include morality and religion as a subject in schools as it has been demanded.



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