CHENNAI: The rising high decibel demand for prohibition has met with mixed reactions from social activists, who are divided over the possibility of its implementation in the State. While a section of social analysts are optimistic that political will is enough to enforce prohibition, others dismiss it as misplaced hope saying it would be impossible to bring the law into practice.
While former bureaucrats express concern over the loss of revenue, police officials said given the high proportion of people who had taken to drinking in the State, flow of liquor from other States and bootlegging would rise.
Writer and activist A Marx said “Prohibition is not practical and efforts in that direction have failed throughout the world. People cannot be weaned away from liquor by introducing new laws. Reforming people cannot be entrusted to the police, who will gain unnecessary power over poor people who take to liquor. Human rights violations by the police will increase”.
“Once, prohibition is clamped,” a senior police official said, “the huge number of people who are used to consumption will not stop all of a sudden. This will lead to illicit brewing and flow of liquor from neighbouring States. Police will have to resort to frisking at the entry points on inter-state borders, besides checking illicit liquor. There may be also a rise in other forms of addictions like methanol, thinner and whitener”.
But, activist and author Thiagu said “At any cost, liquor should be curbed as it is not an individual’s problem, but a problem of society. A society addicted to liquor will not be aware of its problems, its social and political conditions. Besides introducing prohibition, the government should educate the public and provide treatment to those who have become addicts”.
When former Chief Minister C Rajagopalachari introduced prohibition in 1937, he came out with the idea of collecting sales tax to compensate the loss of revenue, Thiagu recalled. “Now, the State government is collecting sales tax, while running liquor shops. Even Kerala, which has announced closure of liquor shops has identified a new source of revenue. Where there is a will, there is a way. Only, political will is required,” he argued.
But, a retired government official said, “When I was in service, MGR struggled to continue prohibition and gave it up. He had the will, but could not succeed. At present, the State government earns about Rs 29,000 crore which is nearly one-third of its revenue. It will be an uphill task to compensate this revenue loss.”