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Prohibition impractical, won’t work: Wine major
At a time when there is talk of introducing prohibition across the country, a top Indian wine-maker says the concept has never worked and never will.
Rather, efforts are to be made to promote wine and beer to wean people away from hard liquor.
“Some states have imposed prohibition in the past and the move has been a massive failure. When will the governments realise that to enjoy a social drink is not same as gulping down liquor,” Rajeev S Samant, CEO of Sula Wines said.
“If there are five million people in a state, out of which one million are alcoholics, that can’t be a reason to tell one and all that you can’t have drinks. Imposing a blanket ban is a stupid idea,” he asserted, mincing no words. Reinforcing his contention, he said that imposing prohibition also means the loss of thousands of crores of rupees in taxes, which help in raising infrastructure, providing medical facilities and education to the people and improving water resources, among others.
The only people to benefit from prohibition are the liquor mafias, who get a situation conducive to selling the same liquor at double and triple its price, he said. “Liquor sells before prohibition and it sells after prohibition... It’s just that the beneficiaries change – from the exchequer to liquor mafias.”
Theoretically, prohibition is in force in Maharashtra as a “permit” is required for buying liquor. Also alcohol can only be served in “Permit Rooms”, but this requirement is observed only in breach and not in practice. Maharashtra was one of the states, as also Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan, among others, that flirted with prohibition but rescinded when they realised that the measure was doing more harm than good.
Currently, prohibition is in force only in Gujarat and Bihar but in the case of the former, doesn’t apply to visitors from other states. It’s total in the case of the latter and even transit passengers found in possession of liquor can be arrested whether or not they halt in the state. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, at times, spoken of the need for total prohibition but has not followed up on the idea. Prohibition of sorts is in force in Kerala with only five-star hotels permitted to run bars and the government reducing the number of liquor vends by 10 per cent every year. Restaurants are permitted to serve only wine and beer.