YES, WE ALL know this is a hot time to write about the liquor ban. India, I feel, has finally mastered time travel, for, in the last year, we have clearly regressed to the Eighties—as in, 80 BC.
YES, WE ALL know this is a hot time to write about the liquor ban. India, I feel, has finally mastered time travel, for, in the last year, we have clearly regressed to the Eighties—as in, 80 BC. First, they came at us for public display of affection, then they had beef over anyone liking beef and, now, it’s raining so hard on our parade that our spirits stand diluted.
I could talk about the thousands of crores that stand to be lost by the state excise across the nation, or share an equally preposterous number for how many will be rendered jobless because of it. Then there is the looming fate of our established restros and bars, as well as brick-and-mortar enterprises, the kind that don’t function out of an app or some call centre based in Gurugram. Add to this the multi-crore five-star establishments, which will now have to entertain international guests and visiting foreign dignitaries with a glass of sparkling shikanjvi and you can understand the magnitude of our loss—it traverses money and even hits our social quotient. While financially crippling and unsurmountable, the decision deals a fatal blow to the hospitality industry, sending it spiralling back a century.
More personally, what I will miss most is attending wedding receptions, where drunk uncles will no more dance that ‘dance’, which goes viral. This liquor ban stands to uproot our very basic traditions. Can you imagine being at a wedding venue, which is 499 m away from a national highway? And then there might be an adjacent venue precisely two metres away on the other side of the prohibition. Can you imagine how the two parties would look? More like a wedding and a funeral at the same time. One group too busy partying and selfie-ing away, while the other tries to eat fried starters while still sober. All for a matter of a few metres.
Drinking and driving, whatever the mortality statistics might be, is a social menace. Worst yet, it isn’t always the inebriate behind the wheel who may end up losing his life—their irresponsibility can be fatal to innocent others who happen to be sharing road space with them. Now, if it were plainly a case of Darwinian evolution and elimination of the stupid from the gene pool, we wouldn’t have minded too much, but the fact that everyone stands endangered by the foolishness of a few means the solution lies not in such prohibition-style rules, but rather in the successful implementation of the rules that already exist. Otherwise those who crave to drink before driving will find other ways around this, adding to the suffering of the law-abiding majority.
It’s almost a joke how people can drink and get away with it in the capital, thanks to the ever-generous check points, where money smoothens out a lot of wrinkles. Nobody would dream of pulling a stunt like that in Dubai or the US. Bengaluru is strict to the point that people will walk to a nearby pub if taxis aren’t available, but nobody who is out drinking will ever dare to drive. Mumbai is similarly strict, but Delhi is notorious for its lax attitude. Instead of addressing that, we’ve now got a rule, which will only encourage goons to establish a new business—illegally supplying liquor to long-distance haulers plying on national highways.
The rule makes us sound like a nation of drunks, one that can’t be policed nor educated. That is perhaps the most insulting aspect of the law, apart from the horrifying financial and industrywide distress of it. Nobody minds a good drink, but never at the cost of somebody’s life. Whether innately or by fear of law, this basic tenet should become ingrained in the fabric of our consciousness. That is the kind of judgment and governance we really need.
The writer is a sommelier