“My husband would come home drunk after work and take his anger out on me. He would shout at our kids. Sometimes, his anger was expressed through physical abuse. My children would get scared of their father and keep away from him. It was very hard for us. So I decided to work and earn a living” Dola Thakur, a 32 year old housewife and house worker told BE.
Alcohol doesn’t only affect an alcoholic person but people related to him. Dola Thakur is the wife of a person who used to drink every single day and would casually miss work the next day giving the reason that he was not feeling up to it. This problem affects all sections of society. There are believed to be 62.5 million people in India who at least occasionally drink alcohol. Over the recent years the amount of consumption of alcohol has increased tremendously causing havoc to society.
Rise in alcohol related deaths and diseases
There has been a significant rise in the number of people dying because of alcohol abuse. Reports of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) over the recent years have shown that there has been a rise of about one person dying every 96 minutes under the influence of alcohol. People are sold tainted liquor even from licensed shops which after consumption can cause intoxication, change in the nature or cause violence as well and finally can kill a person. People have claimed that alcohol reduces stress on their body and thus calms down their system finally providing them relief. Majorly affecting men the data showed as little as 5% of alcohol consumers are female.
Dr. Priti Bhombe, Director- fund raising and correspondence, Snehalaya, an NGO in Ahmednagar, said, “Alcohol addiction has been endemic in the major parts of India. On an average about 3.3 million deaths in India occur due to alcohol consump-tion or diseases due to alcohol consumption.”
Maharashtra followed by Madhya Pradesh has topped the list of deaths caused under the influence of alcohol. Dhananjay Kulkarni, a police spokesman from the state, said that the number of people who have died because of alcohol abuse now stands at 102 on a regular basis, which also includes women. Toxicity due to alcohol is a regular incidence in India, where people are even drinking bootleg liquor leading to major deaths.
Crimes against women and children
Dola also mentioned, “I have two children. I was very worried about who is going to pay for their education? How am I going to look after them now? But there was another constant fear of the abuse I would face if I did anything that would set my husband off.”
Although, Dola now works as a maid and has a degree of financial independence, she still fears getting beaten up by her husband. Not only economically or financially but physically, Dola and many like her are suffering because the bread earner of their family is an alcoholic.
The majority of alcohol consumers are aged between 30-50 and have shown lower levels of educational qualifications along with very low daily income, according to government reports. When it is observed closely it is seen that the consu-mers of alcohol are regular drinkers of alcohol that has a high spirit content.
Another aspect of abuse against women is found in the red light areas. Dr Girish Kulkarni, founder, Snehalaya, spoke to BE in this context, “We found that every woman in the sex trade was a victim of addictions specially alcohol. This addiction leads to major health problems and exploitation. The viscous cycle of ill health, diseases, exploitation and poor economic conditions engulfs them into deep fathom of darkness. There are about 60 lakh women in the flesh trade in India at present. So alcohol addictions have destroyed the lives of so many women in India. These addictions also are a major hurdle in the rehabilitation of these women. So many NGOs working in this field cannot find successful solutions for the rehabilitation of these victims.”
Dr. Bhombe continued, “The problems of the children of the women in the flesh trade are also the same. Many of these children are made to bring alcohol for the customers of their mothers. These frequent errands and lack of protection leads to the children getting addicted to alcohol. Besides this the children staying in the slums, rag pickers, street children are also victims of such addictions. The children are recurrently abused as they are easy targets for many. Mental insecurity and lack of protection leads to various addictions. Unfortunately, in a country like India, cheap alcohol and whitener is easily available and affordable to all of them. This has led to the increase in the percentage of addiction.”
Men or women who have showed deviant behaviour are prone to these addictions very easily since they are mostly staying away from their houses. They into gambling and drinking, which results in isolation and insecurity.
Impact on work performance
Most of the people affected by alcoholism are generally men, which affects labour productivity. Dola said, “My husband would not go to work if he felt tired or sleepy. If the weather was peaceful, he would cancel work, which would amount up to losing around Rs. 200-300, which is a lot for us.” This way it is very hard to actually co-operate since the man is just losing a day’s money, which might be a big contribution to the education of his children. Many alcoholics miss going to work, often borrow money from associates, show reduced efficiency.
When we consider work, we consider college going students as well since they are the next generation who would work. They are distracted by certain components or activities taking place around them and once they are engaging in it, they cannot revert back. As Dr. Bhombe said, “The story is not so different for young children especially those staying in college hostels or rented facilities in cities. Many students coming from humble backgrounds or small towns are often carried away by the various attractions of the so-called big city life. Peer pressure and the compulsion to fit in amongst the so called sophisticated class compel them to start drinking. This also becomes an easy way to escape from the tensions and pressures to perform at least temporarily. About 39% of the boys and girls staying away from their homes are addicted to alcohol nowadays.”
As a result, it leads to a disturbed emotional and psychological state for the individual and his family members.
Despite modernisation, a majority of Indians are into agriculture. With the kind of socio-economic condition these communities are dwelling in, it is very hard for the members to run their daily household if the earning members are spending most of their money on alcohol. The family finds themselves suffering from impoverishment after a point of time. An alcoholic father is not only a bad image for the children but also a person who has deprived them of social, monetary, and emotional security.
There are two kinds of losses, acute and long term where the acute loss is getting ridden by a disease or getting addicted to alcohol resulting in suspension or economic instability. But the long term loss is what causes death. The bread earner dies and leaves the whole family in distress with the psychological stress eating them up. About 80–90% of the drinkers, who run away, blame it on their excessive use of alcohol. The costs of losing work also vary depending on the ability of that individual. If they work in a hi-tech employment environment, it can even result in loss which extend to thousands of rupees.
Dr. Bhombe said, “Presently, all the efforts put in by the Govern-ment have not been very effective to curb the addictions in all walks of life. Various de-addiction clinics and programmes seem to give only temporary relief. The people attending the de-addictions clinics seem to return to their addiction time and again. Instead of making laws against the alcohol consumption or banning alcohol in states, some other means must be thought of. Only the Govt. alone cannot find solutions to this massive problem which has been spreading amongst all ages and sexes. Strong will power of the masses, familial support, protection of street children, slum children & children staying in the red light areas by providing them shelter in rehabilitation centers, form-ing support groups for alcoholics, support systems in colleges and schools, parents setting an example for their kids can be some measures which can be implemented from the grass root level.”
Finally, India’s population growth has shown a rise in the alcohol market as well, which can be a warning sign for the country’s economy. India’s alcohol market is at a CAGR of 8.8% which is expected to hike till 16.8 billion litres by 2022. India is also the largest buyer for whiskey in the world which constitutes to 60% of the total IMFL market. With certain NGOs, laws and other policies dedicated to countering alcoholism and abuse due to it, the government is also hoping to curb the consumption of alcohol.