India’s drinking problem

Drinking in India is aimed at getting as drunk as you can. When pushed into dark corners it morphs into a demon
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First Published: Fri, Jan 18 2013. 02 39 PM IST
Alcohol and its relationship with Indians needs to be discussed in the same way that sexual violence and women’s safety and rights are being addressed at this time. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Alcohol and its relationship with Indians needs to be discussed in the same way that sexual violence and women’s safety and rights are being addressed at this time. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Updated: Sat, Jan 19 2013. 12 06 AM IST
Against the backdrop of rage against the system and the mindsets that drive daily assaults on women, it is encouraging to see enforceable solutions emerging that will directly increase the safety and deliver speedy justice to women.
However, the Delhi government’s order to close discos early is the kind of knee-jerk reaction that makes little practical sense in the absence of evidence linking hours of operation for discos to increased evidence of sexual assault.
If anything, upscale clubs provide a safe environment to unwind, without worrying about what you are wearing, drinking or doing. For those who live and die by the “work hard and party harder” eh, these clubs are a necessary part of living in a metropolis. A must-have for sure.
Still, India’s drinking culture is one thing that does bear examining at this time when the country is engaged in taking a hard look at itself and its problems. There is no denying that alcohol plays a part in many instances of violence, including sexual assault, toward women. Prohibition has been supported by many women who are daily victims to the drunken brutality inflicted on them and their children. It is easy to understand how you would want to ban a substance that wreaks havoc in your life and eats away all your income. Nonetheless, this scenario still has no bearing on early closure of discos, especially five-star discos that cater to a very small fraction of society.
Attitudes toward alcohol vary widely in the country. Drinking is frowned upon generally in India. On the surface it seems to be about having too much or too little money. For those who have too much, drinking is part of the civilized life that states you have arrived and are comfortably ensconced in the court of the king of good times. For those who have very little money, drinking provides escape and respite. In the middle are most families who do not allow drinking at home and drinking is a subject that falls into the “don’t ask, don’t tell” kind of area occupying the same space as sex does. So men drink outside the house and kids party during the day time.
Given these constraints, the purpose of drinking in India is generally aimed at getting as drunk as you can. When drinking is pushed into dark corners instead of well-lit areas, it morphs into more of a demon.
Drinking can also drive men to engage in acts of astonishing depravity of a kind that may be imagined while sober but checked from implementation by a still functioning moral radar that distinguishes between what is right and that which is pure evil. Drinking by young men in groups has the potential to cause incidents like the ghastly Delhi gang rape.
During India’s new awakening to the poisonous mindsets that are the root of the most vicious violations of human rights, there also needs to be dialogue on the issue that drinking is very much a part of the country’s culture and also has an associated mindset problem. Andhra Pradesh earns most of its income from sales of alcohol. So in a sense it powers the economy of the state. Prohibition is out of the question for this reason.
Alcohol and its relationship with Indians needs to be discussed in the same way that sexual violence and women’s safety and rights are being addressed at this time.
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First Published: Fri, Jan 18 2013. 02 39 PM IST
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