Just thought this way when I read about the hooch tragedy in Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu.
The tragedy that stuck the poor and the hapless families in Krishnagiri district due to hooch can be seen from two sides. The more populist one would be to blame the bootleggers and of course those who consumed the stuff. Both are guilty of having defied the law and invited trouble. Those who drank the killer brew could have avoided the risk. And since they took the risk, the blame squarely lies on them. A nuanced version of this position could be that the personnel from the law enforcing agencies – the Prohibition Enforcement Wing of the Tamil Nadu police in this instance – failed in their duty by letting hooch be brewed and sold with such impunity and hence their share of responsibility for the tragedy must be pointed out and action taken against those who were vested with this job in the district. The blunt as well as the nuanced position, however, gloss over some harsh realities involved.
Let it be stated, right at the outset, that all those who lost their lives or are battling against death in this instance are stricken by poverty and hence also suffer from the consequences of it such as illiteracy, lack of awareness on issues concerning their own health. The fact that they struggle every day to keep themselves alive also leads them to a lifestyle that does not allow them to think about their own future in the same way as those who can afford to plan their lives and audit the risk factors before they chose what they eat and drink. Hence they end up consuming the illicit brew. It is available at prices they can afford. It is also a fact that the poor and the hapless drink for reasons that are different from those that takes the urban elite and their middle class brethren to the bars and the socialite parties.
This is where the issue needs to be tackled. It is possible to prevent such tragedies only when the state and the civil society organisations (including the trade unions), join hands in a campaign that foregrounds a rights based approach to health, education and well being among the poor. Such a campaign will obviously unsettle the forces behind the hooch industry. Hooch, after all, is an issue in societies across the villages and small towns throughout the country. It is not a local problem in Krishnagiri. And an end to this is possible only when the nexus between the bootlegger and the establishment is broken. Only a political movement can achieve this. In other words, when the poor are conscious of their own selves and begin to think about their future, they will resist the temptation to consume the killer brew.