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Do bans really work, ask people on the street

Chitra Phalguni, DH News Servcie, Bengaluru, Jul 9 2017, 1:47 IST
For some, the statement meant an advice to people to stay sober and sane instead of creating problems for themselves and others.

For some, the statement meant an advice to people to stay sober and sane instead of creating problems for themselves and others.

“Good if you keep away from pubs” was an oft-heard statement from citizens whom DH spoke to, after the Supreme Court handed state governments the onus of denotifying the national highways within city limits.

For some, the statement meant an advice to people to stay sober and sane instead of creating problems for themselves and others. Others made that remark to tell the authorities: Let people be. Indian culture has always been inclusive of liquor, we are no newcomers to the vice – even the epics mention its consumption, especially during special occasions.

Apoorva, a 30-year-old chartered accountant puts things in perspective. He explains: “Closure of pubs to deny people access to alcohol will be a failure. Earlier too, a state government attempted at going dry – it only fuelled the growth of the liquor mafia.” He is clear that the limitation on the distance, like 500 metres away from a highway, is no deterrent. “Addicts will find by-lanes to reach liquor.” The Supreme Court's intention was noble. But people may hoard bottles of liquor in vehicles. “Do we have clear data on the highways passing through our towns and cities? We need better highway patrolling, and far higher penalty, probably include imprisonment and confiscation of the driving licence. The social media could be used to advertise a case of a driver caught,” suggested entrepreneur Prabhakar Valivati. “The Central and the state governments should share the responsibility of handling such cases.”

Preferring anonymity, a marketing manager of a pub on MG Road has this to say: “Although our pub does not fall within the purview of the order, business is business. We have set up shop legally, going through a lot of scrutiny. We pay our taxes on time. If location is a problem, the authorities should have considered it before giving us licence.”

Suneetha Sharma, a retired banker and resident of BTM Layout, however, welcomes the ban. “The number of people who drink and drive is far lower than the number of sober drivers, but very often, it is the latter who pay the price for the thoughtlessness of drunk drivers,” she explains.

In the words of Jayashree, a resident of Koramangala, “It is two to three kilometres from Koramangala till Silk Board, where we have NH 44. But the number of pubs in our area, beyond the 500-metre mark, is not small by any means. For someone driving on a highway after visiting a pub, would two kilometres be a big distance?”

Closure within city limits would prove ineffective if one pub is closed while another, a short distance away, is left open. This was an opinion of some Bengalureans. There have still been arguments in favour of keeping highways free from the pub menace. A regular, heavy drinker would keep stock in his or her vehicle, but it is better not to attract an occasional drinker towards liquor with an outlet on the way.

Theatreperson H S Prasanna, who was in the city, spoke to DH on how their group of friends got a licensed bar in a Shivamogga village closed three years ago. “Elected representatives argued that there would still be illegal sale, but that should not be a reason to permit legal sale of liquor if it proves a hazard. We took the help of police to get illegal outlets closed. No doubt, the problem resurfaced after some time, but it was an example on dealing with illegal sale. The elected representatives and the police needed to consider it more seriously,” he says.

Prasanna says a ban is good, but would prove effective only when you kill the problem from the roots. “When you say you should ban manufacture of liquor, the question arises on the sale of hooch.
“Now, the onus shifts to people to help the law reach the by-lanes. There are many women who, for the sake of domestic good, oppose the opening of liquor stalls. There is a need for awareness on the ill-effects of not just drinking, but easy access to liquor too,” he explains.


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