Prohibition is a hot favourite with our politicians, something which stands them in good stead when things get a bit dull. Now, it is quite easy to portray drink as the root of all evil, as a factor in domestic violence, and therefore, anti-women. First of all, the concept of social drinking is only there in some urban settings. Drinking in India is a man’s domain, women are excluded. Drinking is largely aimed at getting blotto, not for enjoyment or a convivial evening. And, yes, drinking makes even cowardly men resort to violence against their wives. So, prohibition is an issue which goes down well with women. The statistics too show a very dismal picture of drinking in India. At least 15 people die every day due to the effects of drinking, according to an India Spend analysis of the National Crime Records Bureau data. The per capita consumption of alcohol has risen steadily and at least 11% of Indians are binge drinkers. So, alcohol is a health problem, it is a social problem.
But what is objectionable is how it has been made a moral issue, an anti-women one. When Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar introduced prohibition, he did so on the grounds that he was helping women and himself a large number of votes, I might add. But prohibition alone does not do away with the social problems associated with liquor like violence. A person who wants to drink will find a way to do so and the profits will go into the black economy. While women may be right in feeling that liquor is the bane of their lives, what I find disturbing is the sight of women vandalising liquor vends and smashing bottles and in some cases even setting fire to the premises. This is happening across states, especially the BJP-ruled ones, which are always looking to impose prohibition at the drop of a hat. It is touted as a panacea for all the problems women face from domestic abuse to violence outside the home.
There is a certain degree of social approval of women taking the law into their own hands. If under guise of being an affected party, perhaps genuinely so, you can go into a licensed liquor vend and destroy it, why should your gender protect you? For the violence that women suffer, there are laws though god knows they are not implemented effectively enough. And prohibition or removing liquor vends do not solve alcohol-related problems like violence.
I have rarely -- if ever -- heard of women being arrested for vandalising liquor shops. Who is to compensate the owner for his loss? What signal does this send out? That if you are a woman and an aggrieved party, you can go the rampage and get away with it? This is not any form of gender assertion, it is criminal. Because you are a woman, it does not put you above the law. We are quick and rightly so to condemn organised violence on several issues, the most potent being communal. Women’s might should be organised for worthy causes, not to become hooligans much like their male counterparts and go about threatening people’s livelihoods. Women can surely be better than this.