A false claim that aftershave lotions can give a high as good as alcohol claimed two lives on Friday in Tamil Nadu. The very same day, another alcoholic, frustrated with the absence of his regular fix, tried to stab his son to death. The attacker was killed by his other son. At least four deaths due to alcohol non-availability have been reported from other southern states. Further, massive burglaries have been reported in TN, targeting the local ‘wine shops’.
The state government recently issued an order asking all shops in remote areas to move their booze stocks to centralised godowns or marriage halls, beefed up with police protection. Sensing these problems, including the loss of lives and state revenue, the Kerala government earlier this month declared liquor stores as an essential service, and decided to sell booze to those bringing a medical prescription. The move was stayed by the High Court there, after several doctors’ bodies called it an ‘anti-people’ decision.
What are other countries doing in this regard? The UK has announced that liquor stores would be considered an essential service. In Canada, public health authorities warned that cutting off liquor supply would have deep consequences on alcohol dependents, and thereby increase the pressure on healthcare facilities. Canada too decided to keep its liquor stores open. So have most states in the US. A person experiencing alcohol withdrawal can suffer delirium and epilepsy, leading to death, says Canadian neurobiologist Larry Grupp. The dependants could look for substitutes, and turn to dangerous products containing alcohol, he adds, just as it happened with the Tamil Nadu duo.
Back in India, a government study done in 2016 says 5.7 crore Indians are addicted to alcohol. Many of these people are at the risk of harming themselves, or their family members. The longer the deprivation continues, the graver the dangers. After all in TN, three people had died of Covid-19 till Saturday and three due to alcohol deprivation.