Alcoholism & Addiction on the rise in Haryana

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The consumption has doubled in last 10 years. On an average one person consumes 7 bottles per month in the state.

Dr. S.S Chahar, Professor

Haryana is known for its rich cultural heritage of Vedic period as well as considered as the home of Gods, Rishis and Munis having great impact of Arya Samaj movement and Sir Chottu Ram keeping the people away from smoking, drinking and eating meats etc.

However, the things changed with the emergence of westernisation and globalisations, when people started to accept alcohol drinking as a social practice. The government on its part also began to overlook Article 47 of Indian Constitution and formulated an excise policy for generating more finances from the alcohol industry at the cost of social capital.

The number of people consuming liquor regularly in Haryana is much higher than the national average of 30 percent and three times more in rural areas.

Moreover, the adults of the state consume 16.28 crore bottles of liquor per month and 63.3 percent youngsters use cannabis, opioids and sedatives next to Uttarakhand as per survey of AIIMS, New Delhi.

Despite such a grave situation, the successive governments have adopted the excise policy- to sell more, earn more.  For example in 1966, the consumption of country liquor (CL) was 1420345 proof litters and foreign liquor (FL) 50785, wine and beer (W&B) 146994 bulk litters, opium 4 kg. But within a period of nine year, the consumption of CL rose by 65.74%, FL- 74.22 % and W & B – 69.9%.

Similar uptrend was seen during the tenure of Janata government  (1977-79) as well as Congress government (1980-87). However, the increase in consumption slowed down during the Janata government (1987-91) and the Congress government (1991-96).

Interestingly even during the imposition of prohibition by the Haryana Vikas Party & BJP government (1996-99) the consumption of CL rose by 26.90% W&B by 37.74% because illegal mafia emerged to distribute alcohol at the doorstep of the consumer.

However, the use of CL and W&B declined and FL increased by 24.15% during the Lok Dal & BJP government (1999-2004).

However, the uptrend resumed during the period of Congress government (2004-14), because the supply chain was made easier with opening more liquor shops in villages, towns, cities along with wine and beer bars. The government intended to make liquor available even in grocery stores.

With the formation of BJP government in 2014 people expected that supply of liquor and drugs would be regulated. But nothing of this sort happened and the government continued with the excise policy of the earlier government when hefty increase was made in the licence fees and designated the excise department as corporation to sell liquor directly to the retailers.

Now the consumption of CL is above 100171000, FL 5747000 and W & B – 114017662 bottles per year with 46% share of Gurugam and Faridabad contributing 50% of revenue. The annual quota of FL is 94415737 bottles and CL 239083765 bottles. Thus the consumption has doubled in the last 10 years. On an average one person consumes 7 bottles per month in the state.

Similarly, the Haryana government has increased the state excise duty manifold since 1967 i.e. from Rs. 1.20 crore to 3500 crore in 2015-16, 5000 crore in 2016-17 and 6100 crore in 2018-19 against the spirit of Indian Constitution.

However, on its parts, the law enforcing agencies have seized a big quantity of opium, charas, poppy husk, smack, ganja and heroin from time to time and cases were registered against the offenders. A calling attention motion was tabled by few MLAs against rampant drug and alcohol abuse in the state and increasing incidents of thefts. But the number of drug addicts has increased 7 times since 2010.

Thus, the successive governments in Haryana have failed to stem the menace of addiction. Moreover, the number of treatment and rehabilitation centres is highly inadequate and defunct. So, there is a need to reconsider the excise policy to regulate the consumption of alcohol and drugs in the larger social and economic interest of the common masses.

The Haryana govt launched its new excise policy for 2020-21 in February 2020 when it decided to encourage the consumption of low alcoholic content liquor instead of hard one. By doing so the govt intended to rake in Rs. 7500 crore revenue from liquor taxes. Since 2015-16 the BJP govt has been promoting local wine manufacturing.

And Gurgaon has emerged as a brewery hub. For it the Excise department has introduced a winery license for Rs. 5000 per year for local wineries.  Everyone can keep and sell wine from his home after paying a certain amount. Thus the government is trying to sell maximum quantities of liquor to the people of Haryana where 65% of people consume. However, Deputy Chief Minister Dusyant Chautala suggested reducing the number of liquor shops in rural areas. If the 10 % members of a gram panchayat pass a resolution to close the liquor shop in the village, the government would consider it favourably.

About the Author: Dr.SS Chahar is Former Director, Centre for Haryana Studies at Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak.

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