Discussion on Prohibition
The term' Prohibition' denotes a ban on the sale and consumption of liquor. The consumption of liquor in India is very high, with the vast majority consuming country liquor or 'hooch'. The word Prohibition first came into the limelight during the Janata Party regime under the premiership of Morarji Desai, who felt the consumption of liquor was doing more harm than good. However, if we examine the issue from a financial perspective, it is obvious that the sale of liquor generates huge funds for the government in the form of Excise Duty and Sales Tax. Unlike the cold European countries, where a drink becomes essential to regulate body temperature, in India drinking is more of a social statement inherited from the British. But today it has become a regular feature after the opening up of the economy.
Efforts by different governments to ban drinking have proved to be counterproductive and detrimental to society as well as the economy. Besides the huge deficit in revenue for the state governments due to Prohibition, it led to the growth of illicit liquor manufacturers who more often than not sold spurious spirits, the consumption of which took many lives. Many of those killed happened to be sole breadwinners and their deaths ended up destroying their families. In India, where drinking is a way of life amongst the lower strata of society, particularly daily wage earners, hooch is a killer drink. The Government soon realised this problem and removed Prohibition from many states. Today with the exception of Gujarat, where Prohibition is still in force, all other states including Andhra Pradesh and Haryana have lifted the ban on drinking.
Besides the loss of revenue, there are also the expenses incurred in employing the enforcement staff for enforcing Prohibition.
In essence, it causes a double loss. On the one hand, the earning of the state falls and on the other hand, the expenses also increase. Mumbai lost crores of rupees as revenue by enforcing Prohibition. Simultaneously, when there is Prohibition in one state, the neighbouring states gain in the form of revenue through liquor sale. When Prohibition was imposed in Haryana, neighbouring states like UP and Delhi had a massive sale of liquor, which was smuggled into Haryana and sold at a premium.
In India, drinking is considered to be taboo and there are several misconceptions regarding it. There is no doubt that more often than not people drink too much, create a nuisance and sometimes commit crimes. But banning the sale of liquor is no answer as Prohibition encourages bootlegging or the illicit brewing of liquor. It is more important to educate the illiterate masses about the evils of drinking and stress the need to drink within limits. Drinks per se are not bad; it is the excess that kills. Moreover, even the medical profession recommends drink as a remedy for some ailments. And in the Armed Forces, drinking is part of the army life-style. As it is said, the excess of anything is bad and the same goes for drinking too.