You can trust Government of Maharashtra to make decisions which are very difficult to implement and creates new opportunities for corruption. The recent decision to increase the legal age for alcohol consumption from 21 to 25 is an example.
Even when the legal age was 21, or before that 18, did any government machinery really attempt to implement it. You could always find young boys, definitely below the legal drinking age buying liquor in shops.
The ‘liquor permit’ required in the state to consume alcohol is another classic example of how laws create opportunities for the corrupt government machinery. The new order doesn’t abolish the permit.
Another piece of absurdity in the new order is that wine, according to all the newspapers, has been made exempt from any age restriction…apparently, because it does not have any significant alcohol content.
As Bhavin Jhankaria points out in his article in Mumbai Mirror, this shows that government cannot do even simple math. Wine can have upto 14% alcohol. So a standard 100 ml glass of wine contains 14 ml of alcohol. As against that, a small peg of whisky is 30 ml and whisky typically has 40% alcohol. So a small peg of Whisky contains 12 ml of alcohol. Now, I am not trying to say that Whisky is safer than wine. But it defies logic that to consume Whisky, you must be 25 years old, but it’s ok to consume wine at any age.
To change the behaviour of people, the work is needed on two fronts. First there must be strong social movement and then, if needed, laws can be made to enforce the changes if needed. But arbitrary laws without any support for the reforms and in absence of appropriate machinery cannot achieve the desired goals.
The Marathi Drama Ekach Pyala (Just one glass) vividly showed how excesses of alcohol can ruin lives and IMHO had a very lasting effect on Maharashtra. Alcohol consumption is still not easily acceptable in most Maharashtrian middle class families courtesy that play. It turned a lot more people away from alcohol than any such rules.
Anna Hazare stopped alcohol consumption in Ralegan Shidhi with the help of women in the village. And now the villagers of Pirkon in Uran Taluka 70 kms from Mumbai have banned alcohol from the village.
Jagadeesh Patil, the sarpanch of Pirkon, said, “We have a population of 3,006 and the main occupation is paddy farming. For several years, we were noticing how poor farmers were literally losing their senses and income on deshi and gauthi daaru (country liquor). That’s why there will be no more alcohol here.”
When told about the state decision to allow only beer for those above 21 years and hard drinks for citizens above 25, Patil remarked, “If our gram panchayat had its way, we would ban alcohol for all in Maharashtra.”
Pirkon has also shown that they haven’t just made the rule, but also have a way to implement this ban.
With the help of the Chirner beat police, the villagers have registered cases against three persons who were trying to sell illicit liquor in the village premises. As a deterrent, anyone caught with alcohol will be fined Rs 5,000 by the gram panchayat. Perhaps what acts as a greater deterrent is the knowledge that if caught flouting the rules, the culprit will be given an unofficial lesson on the evils of alcohol by the army of Mahila Mandal women.
I am impressed. Are you?