“IS RAJAJI’S ADVOCACY OF PROHIBITION FEASIBLE IN TAMIL NADU
IN TODAY’S CONDITION ?”
In the context of the Rajaji’s birthday in the month of December, Nandini Voice For The Deprived, ( nandinivoice.com) and Rajaji Satsangham, promoted by admirers of Rajaji, jointly organised an essay competition for college students in Tamil Nadu on the following subject
“IS RAJAJI’S ADVOCACY OF PROHIBITION FEASIBLE IN TAMIL NADU
IN TODAY’S CONDITION ?”
There was good response for the essay competition from college students all over Tamil Nadu.
The following students were awarded prize in the competition.
* Ms.Varshini Venkatesh, Ethiraj College For Women, Chennai
* Ms.S.Arunya Kumari, Ayya Nadar Janaki Ammal College, Sivakasi
* Mr.R.Ashwath,SSN College of Engineering, Chennai
* Ms.S.Dhana Bharathi, Sri Kaliswari College, Sivakasi
* Ms.S.Sreenidhi, Ethiraj College For Women, Chennai
* Mr.B.R.Vinay Kumar, SSN College of Engineering, Chennai
Highlights of the views expressed by the students on whether it is feasible to implement prohibition in Tamil Nadu, are given below.
Is prohibition feasible in Tamil Nadu ?
What college students in Tamil Nadu think ?
Rajaji’s dedicated efforts
Prohibition Act was introduced in Tamil Nadu by Rajaji in September 1937. In order to offset the loss of revenue due to prohibition, Rajaji also introduced sales tax.
In February 1948, Rajaji stated that he felt a sense of achievement and said that removing the edifice of prohibition in Madras was his dream.
Rajaji’s liquor ban strategy was an elegant blend of social welfare and revenue generation.
Rajaji’s dream not utopian
Rajaji’s dream to implement total prohibition was not an utopian one.
It is just that his policy should be now implemented in appropriate manner in the modern day context. We need to strive hard sincerely and have appropriate innovative plans and stay motivated to achieve this lofty objective.
Though the benefits of prohibition will not be visible immediately, the long term benefits such as increased productivity and improved longevity of the people will do immense good, sooner or later and most probably sooner than later.
Liquor habit not new
It is necessary to keep in view that prohibition is an idea older than civilization and as old as the monkey and chimpanzees. In fact, alcohol and humans have always been sharing a cyclic relationship. This aspect need to be kept in view, while discussing about prohibition issue.
Politicians seem to be the ultimate gainers
Though the Government claims that it gets huge revenue from TASMAC shop, a close scrutiny will reveal that not the government alone but the politicians also get huge income due to the operation of the TASMAC shops.
In fact, government spends whatever revenue that it gets from TASMAC bars in extending freebie scheme.But the contractors ( politicians) generate black money and amass huge ill gotten income.
These corrupt politicians usually have a distillery or brewery under the title of an alias or an accomplice. The ruling party favours the breweries owned by the preferred politicians for the purpose of supplying liquor to TASMAC shops. Politicians acquire black money by doing various illegal transaction through this.
The prominent way of acquiring black money is by selling the liquor stocks at prices above the legally prescribed ones. Even by selling the bottles (an average of 2500 bottles per day) at Rs. 10 over the prescribed price in all the 6800+ TASMAC shops for a year , there would be generation of over Rs. 6,120 crores of black money per year.
Advantages of present TASMAC policy of Govt. of Tamil Nadu
Government of Tamil Nadu owned TASMAC shops provide two benefits namely increase in revenue for the state as well as the control of spurious liquor through regulation of supply and sales.
If prohibition were to be introduced, then liquor addicts may go into the hands of anti social elements, who will set up illicit breweries and exploit by playing on the weakness of the people for drinks.
Disadvantages of TASMAC policy of Govt. of Tamil Nadu
The low price of liquor and the easy availability have led to massive increase in drinking habits and liquor addiction in Tamil Nadu and consequently, general health, especially amongst the lower income group families, have been severely affected.
Prohibition will reduce the crime statistics, as people under the influence of alcohol are very much more likely to commit various types of crime, as now seen by increasing incidents of number of thefts and violence. 80% rapes and 60% murder and more may be committed under the influence of alcohol.
Alcohol not necessary
Alcohol is not something like water or air that is required to live on this earth. Alcohol is an unnecessary and counter productive drink that people can do without..
The main argument against prohibition is that compensating for the loss of revenue for the state is very difficult and almost impossible.
This may be viewed as an unprincipled approach and negative mindset, with least consideration for healthy and harmonious living conditions and value system in life.
During the prohibition era in Tamil Nadu, liquor habit amongst people was rare and was detested and new generation was brought up that has no desire for consuming liquor.
Profile of the liquor addicts
The majority of liquor addicts in the state are unskilled workers, immigrant labourers, daily wage earners and the multitude of psychopaths, destitute and defeatists.
The age of first exposure to alcohol in the state, has dropped to 15 years . Several teenaged boys and girls are rapidly getting addicted to drinking, though tender age is meant for thinking and not drinking. Added concern is the increasing number of women, specially girls, becoming addicted to alcohol.
At least 20% of the people visiting TASMAC shops are teens.
Another 30% are educated working class. Another 30% are middle aged people wanting to forget their family woes. A solid 20% are old people who want to drink away their remaining lives.
In other words, TASMAC and other liquor shops are visited by people including those just getting out of school (sometimes even school going children) to those on the last leg of their life.
What is feasible ?
Total prohibition is a tough sell concept in today’s world and particularly with today’s media.
It may not be feasible to ban liquor completely or immediately nor to quickly bring down the immense growth in liquor consumption that Tamil Nadu has seen in the past few years . What is feasible is to establish control over individual consumption in a big way, that may gradually lead to a situation where large percentage of population would be teetotallers.
What strategies ?
Innovation is the key to handle liquor menace in the Tamil Nadu now. If it is not innovatively handled, Tamil Nadu will lose its future to liquor.
When the subjects do not get the idea, a good king is one who should direct them. When Rajaji can do it, why can’t the present day governments in Tamil Nadu?.
Govt. need motivation
First of all, the Tamil Nadu government should have the motivation to enact and enforce prohibition in the state and continue to do so, despite pressure from various vested interests to do otherwise.
Enforce in phased manner
Government should enforce prohibition in a phased manner, thereby slowly depriving the alcoholics of the destructive habit. Abrupt withdrawal will only result in the alcoholics seeking illicit source for the liquor.
Launch massive educational campaign
Government should launch massive education campaign against use of alcohol in schools from 6th standard to 12th standard, to ensure that youngsters would be completely shifted away from the habit of getting into liquor habit.
Raise the age for drinking
Drinking age should be raised to 20. This drinking age limit should be enforced through ration cards checking.
Stop the freebies
The government should give up the policy of giving out avoidable and unnecessary freebies to the masses and subsidies to the middle class. It can then manage state finance without TASMAC income to a significant extent. This can save the government over Rs.11000 crore per annum.
Levy luxury tax
The state can levy luxury tax to set off the losses incurred due to closure of TASMAC shops. It can be levied to the extent that it covers the loss due to liquor ban, duly taking into consideration the gains due to stoppage of freebies.
Levy of luxury tax may hit the rich. But it serves the poor.
Improve tax collection
The government should digitize the tax collection process to efficiently collect the existing taxes, which can significantly augment the revenue of the state.
Set up alcohol and molasses based industries
The molasses/alcohol available after introduction of prohibition should be put to productive use.
The state should strive to utilise its vast resources of molasses and alcohol by facilitating the establishment of molasses / alcohol derivative industries. This would augment the income for the state by tax revenue.
Ask for funds from Central government
The State Government can approach the central government for funding, as part of social responsibility function, for introducing prohibition.
Provide tax exemption to donors
The government can also welcome individual donations from the citizens to augment its income after introduction of prohibition and grant tax exemption for the amount donated
Ration the liquor supply
Procedures should be implemented to introduce rationing of liquor.
A permit system must be initiated by the government. Each ration card holder should be granted permit for only a certain number of bottles per month. If the card holder wants to exceed the limit, it should be made compulsory for him to meet the government appointed psychologists, who would help the victim to overcome this destructive habit.
Reward the families in the lower income group who do not drink
Points should be awarded to families in the lower income group that do not have any member consuming alcohol and accumulation of such points can be used to honour such families suitably from time to time.
Get community involvement
The focus should also be to enlighten the common people and deter them from using alcohol. This can be done in multiple ways such as getting the community involved in maintaining prohibition in the state by encouraging them to organize awareness programmes on alcoholism and run alcohol rehabilitation centres.
Motivate youth to fight for prohibition
Today’s young adults and adolescents are exposed to several experiences that the older generations did not face While they are highly criticized due to the practice of westernized lifestyle, they also have large conscience. Thanks to this, one can see the trend of number of NGO’s and social service volunteers in the state, dominated by the youth. The youth should be motivated to campaign for prohibition.
Award death penalty
Laws should be enacted to award death penalty to those who brew illicit liquor, in case of fatalities caused by consumption.
.Put down bootlegging
The government should ask the police to crack down upon illicit alcohol production centres and impose heavy penalties on the perpetrators. Any collusion between law enforcing agencies and illicit liquor merchants should be dealt very severely and citizens monitoring group should be set up in various parts of the state to alert the government about such collusion.
The issue of smuggling alcohol from other states to Tamil Nadu can be tackled by closely tracking vehicles passing through the state border check posts.
Curb media’s negative role
The media and cinemas play negative role by cheering the usage of such venomous drink among young people by such means as the portrayal of drinking in congenial settings. Such practice of media should be put down ruthlessly.