بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم
اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِيْن،وَالصَّلاۃ وَالسَّلامُ عَلَی النَّبِیِّ الْکَرِيم وَعَلیٰ آله وَاَصْحَابه اَجْمَعِيْن۔
Why is Alcohol not banned in India even after seventy years of independence
In India, a country of a billion and a quarter inhabitants, people of different religions have been living together for centuries. In all the religions that are found in India, alcohol is either forbidden or there is a clear instruction to stay away from it because of its ill effects on one’s health. There is no religion that encourages consumption of alcohol. Moreover, after India became independent, it was maintained in the constitution of India that attempts will be made to ban the consumption of alcohol across India. However, it is quite unfortunate that even after seventy years of India’s independence, till to date we have not been able to impose a complete ban on the consumption of alcohol. That said, there are regions where alcohol consumption is banned. Bihar’s Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has done a commendable job by banning alcohol in the state of Bihar. As of now, in as many as thirteen states of India there is BJP government and in four states there are governments in alliance with the BJP. The BJP is quite actively pursuing the case of Notebandi (demonetisation), meat-ban, and ban on triple talaq, however, of these seventeen states, other than Gujarat, there is not even a single state where alcohol is banned. What merits our attention is that the ban on alcohol in Gujarat has been in place since India’s independence and the state government run by the BJP has nothing to do with it. What cannot be denied is that the alcohol that is sold in India is exceedingly harmful to the people. Alcohol is not only harmful for the health of those who consume it but is damaging to the entire society from economic, social, environmental and other perspectives. However, given the massive amount of money that state governments get through taxes that companies selling alcohol are required to pay, state governments are not willing to impose ban on alcohol consumption. As per Business Line of English newspaper The Hindu, a single company of Tamil Nadu named Tasmac paid 22000 crores to Tamil Nadu government as tax money in 2012. In Kerala, where 22 percent of state government’s income comes from the consumption of alcohol, 8000 crores are received through tax imposed on alcohol. So, what we need to understand is that in all those states where alcohol is not banned, the respective governments get a substantial amount through the tax levied on the amount of money (salary and other than salary) people earn through their labour and hard work. This amount received by the government is approximately 20 percent of its overall income. Of the laws enacted after India’s independence, there are few that fall under the Union List that are for the entire country. The Central Government that operates from Delhi is responsible for the implementation of these laws. On the other hand, there are some laws that fall under the state list that are implemented through the policies made by the state government. Laws related to cow-slaughter and consumption of beef come under the state list which means that the state governments are free to introduce laws as per their will in relation to these practices within the respective states. This is the reason why there are several states where, ever since India became independent, there is absolute freedom and permission in relation to cow-slaughter and consumption and selling of beef, however, there are other states where cow-slaughter is not permissible. Similarly, consumption of alcohol also comes under state list. Therefore, there are several states in India such as Gujarat, Bihar, Nagaland, Manipur, Lakshadweep Islands where alcohol is banned even today. In Kerala, in order to meet the objective of a complete ban on alcohol, a partial ban has been introduced since 2014. In prominent states such as Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Mizoram, Tamil Nadu too, on several occasions, consumption and selling of alcohol have been banned. Moreover, in most of the states, persons below 21 years of age are not allowed to drink alcohol. There are few states where persons below 25 years of age are not allowed to drink alcohol, whereas there is a small number of states where this prohibition is for persons below 18 years of age. On national holidays as well as regional and religious festivals, alcohol shops are closed.
Suffice it to say that given the essence and soul of Indian laws, consumption and business of alcohol ought to be banned. Even in the light of the basic teachings of all the religions followed in India, there is something very genuine about the demand for a ban on alcohol consumption in India. People who have been referring to the Holy Quran in relation to triple talaq without ever reading a single verse of the Holy Book should closely study all the religious teachings, particularly the verses of the Holy Quran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) related to alcohol. In India, followers of Hinduism constitute the largest community. In the scriptures of Hinduism, it is clearly written that drinking of alcohol is forbidden because it is a sin, and those who drink alcohol must be subjected to severe punishment. However, the scriptures inform us that for medicinal purposes alcohol can be used. The second largest community in India is the Muslim community. By declaring consumption of alcohol forbidden, the religion of Islam has cursed those who do the business of alcohol, work in alcohol factories or industries, sell alcohol, drink alcohol, and anyone who gets associated with alcohol in any capacity to earn profit or income. In Islamic Shariah, drinking of alcohol is considered as one of the seven major sins that completely ruin a human being. In Surah Maa‘idah, verse no. 90, Almighty Allah has declared drinking of alcohol as an act of Satan, directed believers to stay away from it and has clearly instructed that only in staying away from alcohol can a person attain success. It can very well be said that in the light of the verses of the Holy Quran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the entire Muslim community agrees that, regardless of the quantity in which it is taken, drinking of alcohol is prohibited. Earlier, alcohol was made by fermenting food items such as grapes. It was called country liquor. Nowadays, alcohol is prepared through modern food technology too, one that is called foreign liquor (English wine). However, as per the Islamic Shariah, both are treated alike i.e. forbidden. Consumption of any item that produces intoxication is forbidden, as stated by the foremost interpreter of the Holy Quran, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), “Every intoxicating item is forbidden” (Muslim).
In Christian religion, followers of which constitute 2.3 percent of the overall population of India, there are two opinions regarding consumption of alcohol. As per one of the opinions, it is permissible to drink alcohol but not to the extent that one loses his or her senses. Others in the Christian community maintain that it is a sin to drink alcohol and, therefore, it is necessary to abstain from it. This insistence on abstinence goes to the extent that few Christians do not even drink tea and coffee because these beverages contain caffeine (a substance that can lead to addiction). In Christianity, the priests who have made a case for forbiddance of alcohol present evidence from none other source but The Bible that drinking of alcohol is forbidden. They have also given a valid and authentic response to those who make a case for the permissibility of drinking of alcohol, something that has been duly recorded in their books. A small portion (1.7%) of India’s population follows Sikhism, a religion started in Punjab by Guru Nanak. In Sikhism, alcohol is strictly forbidden. Followers of Buddhism generally stay away from alcohol because there are too many harmful consequences associated with its consumption. Followers of Jainism are strictly against the drinking of alcohol because, as per the teachings of their religion, there is no permission whatsoever of drinking any kind of alcoholic beverages. Suffice it to say that in addition to the constitution of India, religious teachings of the inhabitants of this country of Ganga Jamni culture also proscribe drinking of alcohol.
There are few advantages of drinking alcohol, however, given the overall picture, the harmful effects of it are way too many. This is something we have witnessed on our own on numerous occasions when we look at the condition of those who are addicted to alcohol. In a report published in The Indian Express on 25 May 2016, after every 96 minutes there is a death because of alcoholism. As per the report of the same newspaper, people who are found guilty of committing major crimes are often alcoholic. Similarly, quite often, people who harass women or indulge in eve-teasing, commit theft or robbery are alcoholics. The report states that in Tamil Nadu a significant section of widows under thirty years of age lost their husbands because of alcoholism. In the same newspaper, an economist’s analysis the state of the total number of patients hospitalised in Kerala hospitals, 25 percent were found to be suffering from alcoholism. Moreover, 69 percent of people who commit crime are under the effect of alcohol at the time of committing the crime. In our country, people raise their voice and hold demonstrations for clean air, however, in relation to the environmental pollution caused by factories that manufacture alcohol (something that is exceedingly harmful for the health of people), there is no demonstration carried out to check that gross violation.
As per a report published in one of India’s most famous newspapers, The Hindu, 70 percent of road accidents in India are due to drunken driving. As per an NDTV report, in India, every fourth minute a person dies in a road accident. Just in 2013, more than one lakh and thirty seven thousand people died in road accidents, a number that is way more than total number of deaths in all the wars India has fought till todate (since independence). What also merits our attention is that the number (of people killed in road accidents) is as per the documented records. In reality, the number of deaths in road accidents could very well be much more. Thousands of people become dependent on others for the rest of their lives after sustaining severe injuries in accidents. Recently, as a result of an increase in road accidents due to driving under the influence of alcohol, the Supreme Court of India ordered that there would be no liquor sale within 500 metres of state and national highways. Imagine how many women become widows because of drinking of alcohol, how many children are orphaned, how many children are deprived of education because of losing the caretaker or guardian of the family. Suffice it to say that our entire society is affected due to drinking of alcohol. There are so many families where fights (mostly between husband and wife) are a routine affair. Drunkards prefer spending money on alcohol and not on important and essential items of everyday consumption. Children are starving, their school fee is not deposited, and the drunkard caretaker of the house keeps all the important expenditures of the household aside, goes to the liquor shop and drinks exceedingly harmful alcohol.
Those who are expressing politically informed sympathy with Muslim women in the name of their fight against triple talaq must know that according to the information gathered from Indian courts, Hindu women are way more affected by divorce as compared to Muslim women. And what is as clear as day light is that more than divorce women are more affected by drinking of alcohol. A heavily drunk person beats his wife. So many women turn widows because of the accidents that take place due to drunken driving. Most of the people who are into eve teasing or harassing of women are those who drink alcohol. This is precisely the reason why women are always at the forefront when it comes to any initiative or movement for banning of alcohol. Therefore, what we need to understand is that sympathy for women does not mean politicising the whole triple talaq issue. Instead, we must completely ban alcohol so as to meaningfully and promisingly contribute to their (women’s) contentment.
Verily, a human being desires freedom with respect to what he wears, eats and drinks. However, the rules and regulations of the world and collective life, to a certain extent, put a check on his desires. In case a person roams on the roads naked, there will be proceedings against him. Consuming of poison is a legal crime. Hotels that serve unhealthy food items are shut down. Similarly, the ill-effects of drinking of alcohol, both on an individual as well as collective level, are so many that they are turning out damaging for the entire society. Therefore, it is required on the part of the government to not get carried away by the huge amount it receives in the form of taxes levied on production and selling of alcohol. Instead, in order to attend to the health of people, provide a blissful and joyous life, and a better social and cultural environment, the government should implement a complete ban on drinking of alcohol. In case it is difficult to instantly impose a complete ban on alcohol, partial ban can be implemented with strict conditions so that, as per the constitution, the country can be gradually cleansed of consumption of alcohol. In case legal action is taken against alcohol factories and shops, most of these will automatically be closed down because of not properly following the required set of rules and regulations.
Dr. Mohammad Najeeb Qasmi