As the economic slowdown forces city executives to work harder to keep their jobs, many are taking to the bottle. This has taken such a toll on their productivity that at least 25 companies, including many top blue chips, have approached the Indian chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous for help over the past six months.
To cope with the flood of requests, the Indian branch of the self-help group had to ask for help from its offices in the US and Canada.
“This is a global phenomenon now and is expected to be here for sometime,” said Leonard Blumenthal, AA general service board chairman, who is in India to help the local branch. “It is great that the problem is being recognised.”
“The corporate sector was initially reluctant to come out in the open, but with the downturn the problem compounded,” said R. Sharma, a senior AA office-bearer in Mumbai. “Now we receive calls almost every day.”
Background search companies confirmed that alcoholism had risen with meltdown. “We find many more cases when we investigate people,” said Ashish Dehade, managing director, First Advantage.
On Saturday, about 15 firms met AA’s global team. The firms requested Hindustan Times to not disclose their identities, but seven of them said their staff had drinking problems. “Over the past six months, alcoholism has become a major issue,” said the HR head of a leading FMCG company.
“At a workshop for all staff, about 20 people admitted that they were already AA fellows,” said an HR manager of a textile company. “This encouraged others to ask for help.”
“Our US experience was similar. Once people were convinced companies would sympathise with them, many more volunteered,” said Bluementhal.
In the public sector, the municipal corporation, the Mumbai Police and Railway Protection Force were the first ones to seek help.
Mumbai police surgeon S.M. Patil praised the intervention at the police hospital in Nagpada. “Peer-group counselling and treating alcholism like any other disease helped a lot.”
The additional municipal commissioner (city), waste disposal, whose department conducted two workshops, did not respond to Hindustan Times’ text messages and phone calls.