Prohibition in AP: Jagan Reddy’s folly

Prohibition in AP: Jagan Reddy’s folly

The Jagan Mohan Reddy government’s plan to impose total prohibition in Andhra Pradesh is bad and unwise. It is not the way to curb drinking and alcoholism. The government has decided to shut down 40% of the bars in the state and has cancelled the licences of all existing bars as part of a new policy to take effect from January. The new policy will be in force for two years, ahead of total prohibition. The licence fee for bars will be hiked, the price of alcohol raised and its availability reduced, all in an effort to discourage its consumption and, in turn, reduce road accidents due to drunken driving, domestic violence, crime and other social evils. The government says it has received representations from the public, especially from women’s organisations, urging it to impose prohibition.  

But a policy that cuts off liquor supply and imposes prohibition by mandate has never succeeded anywhere. Government policies and actions have not been found effective at any time in controlling or curbing the personal habits of people. No state in the country has successfully implemented prohibition. In Gujarat, where there is total prohibition, liquor is available for the asking everywhere. In Bihar, the government has reduced the penalties for violation of prohibition rules and regulations after too many complaints of violation were reported. The state high court had also found many prohibition rules illegal and unconstitutional. Other states which have tried to implement prohibition fully or partially have also found it difficult to do so. Some restrictions on bars, which were imposed in Kerala by one government in 2014, were withdrawn by another government three years later. Andhra Pradesh should not cannot expect to fare any better. 

An illicit liquor industry emerges in every state where prohibition is in force. Hooch and all kinds of illicit brews pose a greater threat to the health of people than alcohol that is sold legally. Deaths from consumption of illicit liquor are common in places where liquor is banned. Liquor is also smuggled in from other states. Tourism and entertainment industries take a hit and the states’ revenues are adversely affected. The revenue from liquor sales in Andhra Pradesh is about Rs 7,500 crore and it will be difficult for the state to make up for the loss. It is political considerations like the possibility of securing more women’s votes that prompt most governments to go in for prohibition. But these have often proved to be baseless and unrealistic considerations. Jagan Mohan Reddy is fast becoming known for wrong and arbitrary decisions. The prohibition plan is one among them. 

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