If Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had learnt a bit more about the side-effects of Gujarat’s 46-year-old prohibition law, surely he would think again about the virtues of the ban on alcohol in his state. Gujarat is not booze-free. Thanks to the lack of an official supply-demand mechanism, a thriving blackmarket — which makes an annual turnover of about Rs 100 million — does the needful. It’s bad enough that about Rs 1,500 crore is lost every year in ‘non-excise’. But the health and social aspect of a hypocritical law should make pragmatism win over prudishness.
Contraband alcohol is available in Gujarat in three forms: potli (pouch), desi (country liquor), and IMFL (Indian-Made Foreign Liquor). While the third variety is beyond the reach of the ordinary tippler, the first two are cheap and, in too many cases, deadly. But no one dares to lift the ban on prohibition as that might upset important pockets and reputations.
Keeping all this in mind, Dinesh Hinduja, a citizen of Ahmedabad, has started a public campaign against Gujarat’s prohibition law. He plans to lead a peaceful ‘malt march’ — a la Gandhiji’s salt march — against prohibition that will culminate in the marchers raising a glass and breaking the law. Considering the rest of India has not gone to seed because of the availability of alcohol, we certainly toast Mr Hinduja’s cause and hope Gujarat makes a sober choice one day.