Monday, May 19, 2008

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.


Blogger Nandhu said...

i dont think it is right to absolve people of everything. the consumers of the illicit brew got to be careful too. if the govt lifted the ban on cheaper arrack (compared to imfl), the alcohilism problem only gets deeper.

4:52 AM  
Anonymous utpal siddhartha said...

this has not happened for the first time in our country... 70s and 80 saw a string of bollywood movies where the hero would fight villains involved in hooch brewing... but all that remained to the silver screen... and now it doesn't show even there.. our concerns are different and we are more interested finding a comfortable position for ourselves... shrugging off our responsibility... and saying cheers to our own glasses full of good times!!!

12:01 AM  
Anonymous Krishnamurthy said...

Alcoholism gets deeper! Consumer or producers to blame?!

Sir, guess the consumers of alcohol are adults and can decide for themselves whether they want to drink or not. Alcoholism or no alcoholism. Just that quality control of illicit arrack is a problem because of it being illicit.

If it were all out in the open. With the government not imposing such steep taxes and controlling the production and distribution of alcohol, I guess it will bring big improvements to the quality of the brew consumed by the poor.

Anyway, those who want to drink themselves silly go ahead and do it. It is better that the alcohol is available at prices cheaper than the daily wages of most workers. How much does a half of old monk cost?

6:21 AM  
Blogger V. Krishna Ananth said...

about alchohol getting cheap... well excise is a major source of revenue to the state govts. and evading that is a source of revenue to parties and brewers...

9:44 PM  

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