A report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) specifies that “At times of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol consumption can exacerbate health vulnerability, risk-taking behaviors, mental health issues, and violence”.
They have also added that there are no pieces of evidence to support that alcohol has helped people protect themselves from COVID-19.
Since the declaration of the first phase of the nation-wide lockdown on 24th March 2020, India was one of the few countries to have also imposed a complete ban on its liquor sale, barring the states of Kerala, West Bengal, Meghalaya, and Assam.
However, they too were subjected to the same fate during the launch of the second phase of lockdown which is to continue till 3rd May 2020.
India is the second most populated country in the world. Here the legal drinking age is above 21. Thus, for a country where a major portion of the population drinks on a daily basis to survive, this complete ban on alcohol sales has had its side-effects.
The ban imposed on the sale of liquor thus has been a controversial issue so far – with a considerable number of people across the country showing alcohol withdrawal symptoms and the economy too being affected quite drastically.
How Has The Ban Affected The Economy?
The sudden and complete halt in businesses throughout the country has proved to be a hard blow on the country’s economy. The taxes imposed on liquor constitute an estimated 15-30% (approximately 2.48 lakh crore) of a states’ revenues.
With the already existent losses on the front of GST collections, there has been an estimated loss of 700 crore a day additionally due to the ban on liquor sales.
This seems to have taken a toll on the states’ revenues. At this hour of crisis, the states are in desperate need of a source to reload their revenues in order to be able to continue investing in relief policies and medical infrastructure to deal with the pandemic at hand.
The Ministers of various states, including MNS President Raj Thackeray, has pleaded to the Ministry of Health Affairs to lift the ban on the liquor sale for the same reasons. He reasoned it out that it is no longer a moral issue but a question of shrinkage in the state revenues.
According to Thackeray, the uncertainty regarding when lockdown will finally be lifted makes it even more indispensable now for the liquor shops to resume their sale.
A recent article of the CNBC TV 18 has declared – ‘Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope has said that [“there should not be any ban on liquor shops in the state if proper social distancing norms are maintained”]’
How Will Resuming Alcohol Sale Affect The Current Crisis?
There have been various WhatsApp forwards, joking about how various illiterate people across the country have misunderstood the use of alcohol sanitizers and have started consuming alcohol on a daily basis instead to immunize themselves against the coronavirus.
Unfortunately, the situation isn’t as humorous as it has been trivialized in these videos. The Indian Spirits and Wine Association of India (ISWAI) have lodged a complaint to the Central Government regarding the increase in the illegal sale of liquor ever since the imposition of the ban on the liquor sale. There have been quite a few cases where liquor bottles have been sold to those in need at an exorbitant rate.
The ISWAI President Amrit Kiran Singh has tried to reason out that according to the guidelines of the lockdown, supply of essential commodity should continue (which includes food) and that the Food Safety & Standards Act of 2006 did classify alcohol as food.
Places like Delhi, Kerala, Telengana, Assam, and many others have been facing another major concern which has been on the rise – the sudden surge in the number of suicides because of alcohol withdrawal symptoms manifesting itself among addicts.
Kerala even started a special ‘Parchi System’ to tackle the problem, wherein the authorities facilitated the delivery of liquor to those who had been prescribed so by the doctor.
The rise in domestic violence has been a major cause of concern for various child and women help-care centers during this lockdown. Excessive alcohol consumption has emerged out to be one of the common reasons behind many of these cases.
However, at a period of uncertain crisis like this, it has indeed become a pressing issue for various state governments to sustain their revenues throughout the period of this lockdown.
Researches haven’t yet shown any link between alcohol consumption and the coronavirus. Thus maybe, amidst all the chaos that has been on-going in the country, resuming the sale of liquor strictly abiding by all the guidelines of social distancing for a few hours daily, would be beneficial for the masses in general and will add to the much needed revenues of the states.
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