By Shashank Bhasker:
With more than half of all alcohol drinkers in India falling into the criteria for hazardous drinking, alcohol abuse is emerging as a major public-health problem in the country. India’s reputation as a country with a culture of abstinence especially in matters regarding alcohol is underserved, say experts. The country, which has seen a rapid proliferation of city bars and nightclubs in recent years, is fast shedding its inhibitions about alcohol as a lifestyle choice. Sales of alcohol have seen a growth rate of 8% in the past 3 years. Officially, Indians are still among the world’s lowest consumers of alcohol–government statistics show only 21% of adult men and around 2% of women drink. The percentage of the drinking population aged less than 21 years has increased from 2% to more than 14% in the past 15 years, according to studies.
Due to this the legal age of drinking has been modified from state to state. With states such as Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Gujarat prohibiting the consumption of alcohol some states like Maharashtra have increased the legal drinking age to 25. Now the question arises as to how effective have these laws been in preventing the youth from consuming alcohol? Sadly the situation has not improved, in fact it has deteriorated to a greater extent. The sale of spurious alcohol has increased drastically which has in turn impacted the health of the alcohol consumers. Imposition of these stringent laws has made our police act more unlawfully! It has increased the number of corrupt practices and also resulted in greater harassment of the public. Seeing this slash back effect there is a dire need to implore the loopholes in the age restriction laws.
Many alcohol adverts now feature spirited groups of young people having a good time. Although alcohol advertising is banned in the electronic and print media, surrogate advertising is rife. Many alcohol companies are coming out with flavored alcohol drinks to woo the youngsters. Thus all this attracts youngsters to try out since they get the image of it is cool! One of the main barriers for India is the lack of data and research on its national health, social, and economic effect. Although the Indian constitution includes the prohibition of alcohol among its directive principles, alcohol policy is devolved to individual states, as is the levying of taxes on it. Since most states derive around a fifth of their revenue from alcohol taxation, the second largest source after sales tax. They are generally ambivalent towards stemming its flow. Most of the pubs and bars don’t even follow the rules imposed on not selling alcohol to people below the specified legal age. Even if it is down the legal system is not so stringent and effectively implemented that they would fear flouting the laid down regulations. The need of the hour is to inculcate educational programs sensitizing the youth as well as school going children on the harmful effects of alcohol. Also there is a need of a national alcohol policy. This would help the health professionals to tackle alcoholism. The youth form the face of the nation’s future, so the government must act prudishly to counter underage drinking.
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