At a time when in India places of worship of all religions are closed and there is a lock down situation in the country, the BJP government at the center has given consent to the state government’s request to open all liquor stores across the country from May 4, 2020, the 40th day of the Covid-19 containment.
India saw an unprecedented crowd outside liquor stores across the country, following the opening of wine stores. No one seemed to care about the lock-in or the norms of social distancing and everyone wanted to stifle their efforts without worrying about the dreaded infection that surrounds them.
People approached the liquor stores like thirsty crows
Like thirsty crows, people approached the liquor stores with a queue of nearly two kilometres almost everywhere in the country. The amount of alcohol they purchased could be determined by the fact that, in Karnataka alone, a value of Rs 45 crores of alcohol was sold on the first day and on the second day, the sale went to Rs 147 crores. A person bought alcohol worth 52,281 rupees from the Vanila Spirit Zone store in Bangalore. His receipt is going viral in the social media.
A similar situation was also observed in northern India. Uttar Pradesh, is reported to have earned 100 crore rupees from the sale of the evil drink on the first day. The holy city of Varanasi, which is represented by the Prime Minister of India, saw a sale of 4 crores on day one. This suggests how thirsty people have been for alcohol since the lock down began on March 25.
If there was a desperation seen in the mood of people flocking to the wine stores, equal desperation was seen on the part of the governments to open the wine business. As the economy is in ruins, the government appeared to be in a great hurry to raise funds to deal with the increase in spending. And this was done by selling alcohol, even at the cost of its detrimental effects on the society.
PM Modi on Alcoholism among youth in India
We can remember a speech given on 05 October 2017 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in which he expressed his concerns about the growing problem of alcoholism among young people in India. He said the youth of the country would be ruined in the next 25, years if the alcohol menace was not checked. The Prime Minister then claimed to be the savior of Indian society, wanted to save young people from being the victim of alcoholism.
Like a proverbial Indian speaking from two mouths, one at front and other at back, the Prime Minister now likes to talk from the back, encouraging alcoholism among youth in the country. Now, he does not see this as a social evil and is in the mood to discourage the same. His priority now is to revive the declining economy and he feels this can be done by selling alcohol in the country.
In doing so the PM even likes to sacrifice all the gains made from the forty days of lock down to flatten the Covid curve. This was seen when people jostled in the queue for a bottle of wine. The government had made no provision for the thermal tests on the thirsty crows. There were no paramedic teams to test the viral symptoms among the triplers. Even the police were not asking to maintain the social distancing norms and they were seen being a spectator of the crowd. This was a huge blunder and height of irresponsibility on the part of the government.
The Godi media went out in large numbers looking for Tabligi Jamaat members in the crowd of triplers to do a juicy story on Muslims drinking during the holy month of Ramadan. However, there was nothing of that sort in the crowd of revelers and they had to make a retreat.
The thirsty crow sight could have been could have been a nice story to blame the government being responsible for spreading the pandemic in the country. The opening wine stores have undone the lock down gains and since none was seen in protective gear it was a sure invitation to the unseen enemy to make an attack upfront.
The evil effect of alcohol Consumption
The other story could have been the evil effects of alcohol consumption and cause of many socio-economic problems in India. The message such story could be the treatment cost of alcoholic could be three times more than the revenue earned by the government from alcohol sales.
Ina situation when there is media curfew an anti-establishment story that could be treated as anti-national activity. Therefore no media outlets can commits such a heinous crime of presenting the actual facts before the people!
To all these developments, a spirit has found an explanation; when a drunkard falls, no one will lift him, but when the country’s economy falls, it is the drunkard who is going to lift it and that’s why the Prime Minister gave his consent to open the wine shops.
India is the largest consumer of alcohol in the world.
Inspired by the huge sale of alcohol in the country, the state governments have decided to impose a “special Corona tax” on the price of bottles of alcohol. The move aims to increase government revenues that are hit hard by the closure of such shops due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
The causality of such decision is the concerns raised by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speech on October 5, 2017. India is the largest consumer of alcohol in the world. There is massive problem of alcoholism especially among the youth.
The fact is, the drinking age in in India is dropping considerably. The first exposure to alcohol is now somewhere in the age group of about 15 years. Even students in upper secondary schools are consuming alcohol. It is not uncommon to find students stacking bottles in their hostel rooms.
Women, especially girls consuming alcohol.
The additional concern is the increasing number of women, especially girls consuming alcohol. Women from wealthy families take alcohol in social parties and some girls are adapting such habits seeing their elders. Everyone seems to have come to terms with such social norm. They see this development as an inevitable part of the modern day lifestyle.
Notwithstanding where the society is going or whether the country’s GDP rate is increasing or not, the rate of alcohol consumption in India is increasing steadily. Currently this rise has scaled the rate of 8% per year.
As the recent phenomenon of government support given to alcohol consumption went viral on May 4 after the opening of the wine shops, a teetotaler has developed a satire on such human saga during Covid 19 lock down.
There were three people watching the long queue in front of the wine shops. First suggested, the government should consider supplying alcohol through ration stores or distributing the ration through liquor stores as it could take care of both; food and drink at one place. He also suggested opening a pawn shop next to the wine store, so those who want bottle can mortgage their women’s jewelry and buy the drinks.
This wise idea was shot down by the second man who said it won’t work simply because it is women who go to ration shops and not the men. They will never buy a bottle which is a social evil and certainly not after keeping their jewelry with the pawnbrokers.
As the two men had closed their heads thinking about what to do, the third man enters and unlocks the situation. He came up with a brilliant idea and suggested, at a time when the country is facing the Covid crisis and when social locking and distancing are the norm, the government should consider selling alcohol online and its distribution can be done by Swiggy and Zomato delivery boys.
Distribution can be done by Swiggy and Zomato delivery boys
This can serve many purposes. First, this would avoid large gatherings in front of the wine shops and people will receive drinks at their door steps. Second, the government can make money as much they can, and third, the crony capitalists can make money in the distribution system.
In such a case, all the three stakeholders; those in the search for bottles, the government and the capitalist buddies will be in a win-win situation. And this could be the best way for the country to collectively fight the Covid-19 war.
Even though there is no consensus on this subject, PM Minister Modi seems convinced what he is doing is right. He did so when he announced the demonetization, again when he announced the lock down, and now he is doing again ordering opening the sale of wine.
BY SYED ALI MUJTABA
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at email@example.com