Delhi’s youngsters have taken to the bottle, and the effects are being seen on the city’s streets. Two accidents in the past 10 days involving drunk 20-year-olds behind the wheel, have shed light on the reckless behaviour of what the police call “spoiled, rich brats” with more money than common sense.
The latest incident took place in the early hours of Sunday morning, when five Delhi-based youngsters — 2 boys and 3 girls — rammed their car into a truck. The drunk youngsters then got into a brawl with police and a media person. The incident comes a week after Shahid Khan, a 24-year-old medical student, killed four people while driving drunk. Despite the age limit of 25, underage drinking is on the rise.
A 2010 survey by the NGO Campaign Against Drunk Driving (CADD) reveals that Delhiites as young as 15 start experimenting with alcohol. The results of the poll of 1000 people, 80 per cent of them under 25 years, found that the city’s young start drinking at 19. “Nearly 80 per cent occupancy of pubs and bars across the city is by those below 25, and 67 per cent of these are even below 21 years,” says Prince Singhal, founder CADD.
The survey found that about 2,000 youth under the age of 21 die from motor vehicle crashes in Delhi every year, and reported unintentional injuries, homicides and suicides that were associated with underage drinking.
The problem is not consumption, but what comes after, say police. According to Delhi Traffic Police, 6,476 people have been caught drunk and driving between January 1 and July 15.
In 2009, during the same period, 6,380 were caught. “Statistics show a clear increase in the number of cases of drink driving,” says Satyendra Garg, Joint Commissioner, Traffic Police.
Too much wealth to blame?
With people in early 20s securing highly paid jobs at BPOs and MNCs, youngsters have more access to money than ever. And that, say experts, is a big cause for recklessness. “Kids get unlimited access to money but don’t learn responsibility before they start spending on alcohol and wild parties. 25 per cent of the patients at our rehab center are below the age of 25,” says a doctor at the Tulasi Psychiatric & Rehab Centre.
Sociologist Dipankar Gupta feels that parents are to blame. “Even parents think drink driving is a minor offence and they can get away by flouting it.” Singhal feels the blame lies with the law too. “25 is a ridiculous age, if they make it a more realistic 21, youngsters will treat it responsibly. If they can get married at 18 or 21, it is absurd to place such a law.”