Alcoholism has many negative connotations in India. Not only is it considered an unfavorable practice but also one which is banned on religious days. But the above graph shows a very different story with Alcohol indeed being consumed by 25-50 % of men in most regions of the country.
Though most of the recent references to alcohol are in the urban areas, where growing western lifestyle is seeing young men and women consuming beverages laden with alcohol, the severe socio-economic implications of this practice are in the rural hinterlands.
My interest in the subject started one day during the visit to Kerala. I was there to attend a Toastmasters conference and to my amazement I found out that all wine shops were closed in Kerala on the first of a month. This was because all salaries were given on the first and most men would take that money directly to the booze shop rather than the bank or the house.
In fact an average male in Kerala consumes 8 litres per capita that is double the country average for India. Some states in the country like Mizoram, Manipur and Gujrat have banned the consumption of alcohol. But still many other states have no such rules except the age limits.
Alcohol leads to some health implications, which in turn lead to economic implications for the affected families.
The most common condition associated with alcohol is cirrhosis of the liver. Other complications include- Diabetes Mellitus, Cancer, Coronary heart Disease, poisoning and epilepsy.
But the most important complication resulting from this is the addictive nature of alcohol consumption which often leads to repeat purchase and is currently driving the growth of the Industry. In rural India the use of alcohol leads to loss of pay. Most workers in these areas are working on daily wages and inability to work due to intoxicated state leads to this issue.
To add to this is the complex problem of not having Government health cover leads to these workers and their families taking loans from money lenders which finally leads to their perdition.
So alcohol in India has very difficult socio-economic questions. This can be sometimes the hidden cause for rural indebtedness and loss of pay.
Though some states have banned the consumption of alcohol, I think education is the best way to deal with the issue. Already some Government channels like All India Radio run programs in various languages focusing on the challenges with Alcohol and its implications. Also many NGOs have started working with women and educating them on the ills of alcoholic husbands on the family. Interestingly many estate owners in Coorg and Munnar now hand over the monthly salaries of the workers to the wife’s, so stop these men from wasting money on Alcohol.
As India chugs into a world of development, it is habits like these that keep the rural folks still in the dark ages and it is upto to society to take its destiny in its own hands by saying no to Alcohol.
As usual I would love to hear your views. How can we help people in the hinterlands overcome this addiction which destroys entire societies? Suggestions and thoughts welcome.