DNA Edit: Hooch Tragedy – No lessons have been learnt from the past
The more things change, the more they remain the same. Periodic deaths after consuming spurious liquor, has become a way of life in this country. The death of nearly 100 people in the twin hooch tragedy in UP’s Saharanpur and Uttarakhand’s Haridwar, both adjoining districts, have focused on a problem, which is recurrent and peculiar to this country. Those who consume hooch belong to the lowest stratum of society and warrant little attention once tragic deaths cease to make the headlines.
In this latest outrage, those arrested have confessed to buying spurious liquor from UP and selling it in Uttarakhand. By all accounts, the racket is well entrenched. Those who produce and the ones who sell are identified miscreants and history sheeters, who continue with their business until an atrocity breaks out. Then follows the well-practiced routine of suspending excise officials, offering fake sympathies and a liberal dose of political finger pointing, after which a short public memory ensures that everything is well and truly forgotten. In the last ten years, there have been deaths due to consumption of spurious liquor in various parts of the country. Gujarat in 2009, Odisha in 2012, Bengal 2011 and 2015, Mumbai in 2015 and Bihar 2016, are telling examples of how this trade flourishes unabated and how little deaths of poor matter.
When over 136 people perished in Gujarat in 2009, a supposed `dry’ state, after they had consumed illicit liquor, the state assembly showed a possible way out when it introduced a bill calling for death penalty for those convicted in the illicit trade. To an extent, it has helped in Gujarat, partly also because it is a dry state. It becomes that much harder to curb illegal activities in states, which produce alcohol. Given that liquor is a state subject, the onus of putting to an end to – or any rate imposing curbs on this life-threatening pursuit, lies with the states. But to suggest, as some have been done, that prohibition is the answer, should be considered a patently ill advised move.
There is little point in denying the social attractions associated with liquor and to introduce a blanket ban on the production and sale of liquor, will lead to a parallel industry coming up (as it has in Gujarat), along with massive revenue losses. States that have tried to push up prices in an effort to keep it beyond the buying capacity of the poor, have only helped unleash the production of cheap, adulterated alcohol. It is more than clear that any restrictive practices here would only help proliferate the bootlegging business.
In 2017, the Supreme Court had imposed a ban on the sale of liquor near national and state highways. Later, it rescinded its order somewhat by excluding city limits out of its ambit, which allowed the temporarily shut businesses to resume operations.
Nonetheless, such an intervention has provided safeguards against drunken driving on the highways, though obviously, no system is foolproof against errant behaviour. One of the ways out is to put curbs on the sale of liquor as well as control its timings. That would be a significant first step.
Source : Longview News Journal