It is difficult to restrain alcohol consumption in our society. The government can play a vital role to reduce and control alcoholism and alcohol abuse by imposing law and improving awareness. But it is observed that the revenue earnings through alcohol business have taken a rise in some states. For example, according to theAdministrative Report of the Excise Directorate, Government of West Bengal for the year 2016-17, the excise revenue collection of 2015-16 showed a growth rate of 12.07%, whereas in 2016-17 the same growth rate was 29.57%.
Article 47 of the Constitution of India says, “The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties and, in particular, the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.”
Though the government tries to prevent alcohol abuse and alcoholism through laws and public awareness, India still does not have a particular national alcohol policy.
The laws to prevent
l The Licensing and Catering Act monitors the selling of alcohol and prohibits the sale of alcohol to anyone under the age of 18. It is the responsibility of local authoritiesto check compliance with the Licensing and Catering Act.
l The Criminal Code says that it is a criminal offence to be drunk in public, to disturb the public order while intoxicated and to serve alcohol to someone who is obviously drunk.
l The Road Traffic Act limits alcohol in the blood for drivers, which is 0.05% for regular drivers and 0.02% for new drivers.
l The Media Act does not allow alcohol commercials to be broadcast on television and radio between 6.00 and 21.00.
The enforced Acts
According to the Administrative Report of the Excise Directorate, Government of West Bengal for the year 016-17, the following Acts and rules were administered.
1. The Bengal Excise Act, 1909 (Ben. Act V of 1909)
2. The Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (Central Act 61 of 1985)
3. The Medicinal and Toilet Preparations (Excise Duties) Act, 1955 (Central Act 60 of 1955)
4. The West Bengal Molasses Control Act, 1973 (W.B. Act VI of 1973)
Amendments in the Bengal Excise Act, 1909 up to 2016-17
Necessary amendments have been made in the Bengal Excise Act, 1909 (Government Notification No. 1137-L, Dated 2nd August, 2012) to make the penal provisions more stringent. A new Section 46 AA has been introduced in the said Act to increase the punishment of the offenders involved in adulteration of liquor or any intoxicating drug which is likely to cause disability and death to the people to imprisonment for life, or imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend up to ten years and fine. Barring a few, all the offences under the Bengal Excise Act were made non-bailable. In addition, fine and imprisonment in various contravening sections of the Bengal Excise Act have also been increased.
In India, the states of Bihar, Gujarat, Nagaland and the Union Territory of Lakshadweep prohibited alcohol by law. The other Indian states and union territories do not prohibit the sale of alcohol.
Liquor ban is largely successful in Bihar since the implementation of the Act in April 2016, despite a few cases of bootlegging reported, and has achieved most of the set out objectives.
There was prohibition between 1948 and 1950 and again from 1958 in the ‘Bombay State.’ The ‘Bombay State’ has been bifurcated into the sates of Maharashtra and Gujarat. The Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949, is still in force in Gujarat state and now the legislation is titled as ‘Bombay Prohibition (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2009.’ Gujarat is the only Indian state where for the fatalities occurring due to manufacturing and selling of homemade liquor there is death penalty. But smugglingand illicit sale of alcohol is reportedly a common problem in Gujarat. Foreigners and NRIs are allegedly able to purchase 30-day liquor permits.
The sale and consumption of alcohol is banned in Nagaland since 1989 under the Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act (NLTP). But Indian-made foreign liquor is reportedly readily available in Nagaland due to the weak enforcement of the ban.
Lakshadweep is theonly union territory where the sale and consumption of alcohol is prohibited. Consumption is permitted only in the uninhabited island of Bangaram.
The government campaigns to educate young people about alcohol abuse and alcoholism, and to prevent underage drinking. The aim of the NIX18 campaign is toprevent drinking alcohol and smoking before the age of 18. The BoB campaign aims to raise awareness of the dangers of drink-driving. The government also campaigns at schools regarding the evil effect of alcoholism. These campaigns are aiming to prevent young people from drinking before they turn 18; prevent harmful effects of alcohol consumption; prevent people from becoming psychologically or physically dependent on alcohol; reduce the cases of alcohol abuse, such as public antisocial behaviour, domestic violence and traffic accidents.
Meraj Khalid, I.P.S., the Deputy Commissioner of Police, South Division, Kolkata Police,talks to BE regarding the problems related alcohol abuse.
Q. Is theproblem of growing alcoholism confined within any particular social community or is it common in all types of social communities?
A. The problem of alcoholism is more common among lower income groups. It is mostly prevalent in slum and rural areas.
Q. How do you control illegal alcohol business?
A. We have our own system and process to get information about illegal alcohol business. On the basis of that we execute frequent raids. Sometimes this type of raid occurs twice or thrice a week. We also get information from local people who are victimised by illicit alcohol business. We take steps then andthere.
Q. How many cases of alcohol abuse do you handle on an average in a month?
A. In my area, cases of alcohol abuse, that is, committing crime due to alcohol intake, are less. These problems are pervasive in suburban areas. But traffic related problems due to alcohol consumption are many here. We do take steps to control such problems. And the traffic related problems are from all types of community. This area deals with heavy weight vehicles. There are also many bars in this area. But things are more or less under control as we have necessary and very strict check points.
Q. What are the steps taken by police to fight issues related to alcohol abuse?
A. We have our prevention and awareness programmes to fight with the issues related to alcohol abuse. In order to tackle the dreaded social evil of alcohol addiction, Kolkata Police works with different NGOs, educational institutions, slums and holds street plays, seminars, workshops to spread the awareness among the masses regarding its destructive potential with the motive of spreading the message of ill effects of consuming drugs and alcohol andon urging people to quit this habit.
We hold raids during night and execute checking of the drivers in between 11 PM and 1 AM, by ‘breath analyser’ to detect alcohol consumption more than the permissible limit, to preventtraffic related problems. We conduct sudden checking in bar areas and coordinate with the bars to stop accidents due to alcohol consumption. Our force also joins hands with Excise Directorate, Government of West Bengal, in the battle to control alcoholism and alcohol related problems.
Q. How far are you successful in combating problems of alcohol abuse in your area?
A. I think it is quite under control and the situation is better than earlier. We have many bars in Park Street-Esplanade area. We conduct checking very strictly.