If you see the history of alcohol, you will be surprised that a man’s requirement to get a high date backs to 10,000 BC. Humanity has come long way since then. Many preachers have preached about its ill effects and on the contrary many have even made us count its benefits. To sum up there is love hate relationship with the alcohol (or anything addictive).
However, ‘The Noble Experiment’ is the one which emerges out of the hate relationship with the alcohol. The experiment, which once touted to remove the scourge of drinking from the face of America, didn’t succeed. It was a great exercise of morality, and virtue but it failed. America was not the first one to impose prohibition; it was started in Canada in 1900, followed by Russia (and USSR), Norway, Iceland and Romania. However they didn’t last long. After all, a man’s desire to get a high can take him to anywhere and do anything.
The idea of intoxication is not new in India; it is in also imbibed in the Hindu religion itself as a prasad of Shiva, the god of destruction. However, India’s tryst with non-drinking actually started under Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhi who once promised his mother that he will not touch alcohol also preached its ill effects. After his death his students or followers imposed his ideas on the country, after all he is the father of the nation.
Since independence the prohibition has being imposed in the country from time to time. However, every time government does realize its mistakes and takes it back. After all who wants to forego the revenue worth thousands of crores. The state of Haryana in the late nineties imposed the prohibition; it only saw its border with Delhi jammed every day with men, crawling to get their daily quota, sanity restored within two years, and prohibition was lifted. However in some states, it was there for more than a decade, but was ultimately lifted the reason, rise in illicit liquor, hooch deaths and loss of revenue.
But one state in India tries to make a point by keeping the noble experiment alive. It is the state of Gujarat. Though primarily known for its industrial prowess, the birthplace of Bapu does want to keep his teachings intact. Evening if it has till now costs more than 1000 deaths to illicit liquor. The state has longest serving prohibition in the country.
But practically speaking who is actually benefitted by such prohibition, is it the people? Or the state? The answer on both account is no. People, no matter how much educated will have the tendency to do what they are being told not to do. After all there is no more fun than breaking law. But who is being actually benefitted.
The answer, three people, the police, the politician and the mafia, all of them are hand in glove in that state. Everyone knows even though, liquor is banned it is still available in the state; only at 300% markup to the printed price. All of this is maintained by the mafia, supported by police and filling the coffers not of the state, but of the politician. That’s why they don’t want to ban it, opposition and government alike.
Therefore when a statement is made by the liquor Baron Mallya (even though he has his own vested interest) about removing the prohibition, he was criticized to the core. After all who wants to dry up a regular source of revenue? This was further justified when police was able to round up more than 600 suspects, smelling something fishy here. Well, fish does go well with alcohol. Anyhow, what if drinking is legalized, does government stands to lose?
The simple answer is no, for the government it will be a win-win situation, it can taxed liquor and generate revenue at one hand, and on the other same can be used for funding campaigns educating people about the ill effects of alcohol. But the trinity (police, mafia and politicians) would never agree, after all in the state of bapu, it is the noble experiment. An experiment ought to be kept intact. But this noble experiment, if continued in this manner, will remain an ignoble reality and the latest hooch tragedy is only the testimony of this fact.
© Tarun Mitra