Asked to take a pledge against drunken driving and underage drinking, Delhi University students are all for the first but uncomfortable with the second. The legal age of drinking in the capital should be reduced from 25, they feel.
As part of the Underage Drinking Awareness Week scheduled between Feb 8 and Feb 14 by NGO Campaign Against Drunken Driving (CADD), students will be asked to take a pledge against underage drinking and drunken driving.
However, students are in two minds over taking a pledge to abide by the Delhi Excise Act 2008, under which the legal drinking age is 25 years. Those who don't follow the law face a Rs.10,000 fine.
"I may or may not pledge - I don't know...But I think the legal age for drinking should be decreased but those who drink and drive must be severely punished," said Arushi Singh, a student of economics honours at St. Stephen's College.
Singh's friend and classmate Natasha Godinho also feels that the drinking age limit is rather high but she is sure of her stand about taking the pledge.
"I will pledge because it's not safe. But I don't believe in the 25 year age limit," Godinho said.
Some others like Ramjas College student Amulya Nidhi also feel it's necessary to take a responsible stand.
"Taking a responsible stand is important. At the same time I must add that 25 years as the legal age for drinking is too high - it should be 21 maybe. I mean it's difficult for pub and bar owners and even customers to comply with such laws," said Nidhi, who is in the political science department of the college.
"I will be taking the pledge - I strongly feel that the legal sanctions must be abided by," Nidhi added.
Students participating in the pledge-taking exercise include those from various colleges in Delhi University - St.Stephens, Sri Ram College of Commerce, Kirori Mal, Hansraj, Ramjas, Venkateswara, Jesus & Mary, Gargi, Maitreyi, Kamla Nehru, College of Vocational Studies, Atma Ram Sanatan Dharm, Motilal, and Delhi College of Arts and Commerce.
The awareness drive would involve a series of activities at various Delhi University colleges including a Pledge and Signature campaign and street plays. Stickers and other literature will also be distributed throughout the week.
The Delhi Excise Act states that officials can visit bars and pubs to enforce the law, including the one on underage drinking.
However, a recent survey by CADD found nearly 80 percent the pub going population was underage; 67 percent of those surveyed were below 21.
"Underage drinking has become a serious issue in our city today with average age of consumption of alcohol going down from 25 to 15 in the last decade," said Prince Singhal, CADD founder and activist.
The reason CADD has chosen this week to raise awareness on the issue is the finding that an alarming number of people were prosecuted for drunken driving during the same time last year.
"In the year 2008 more than 135 people were prosecuted for drunken driving in the first two weeks of February till Feb 15. This period also witnessed a series of accidents involving drunk drivers, most of whom were 18-24 years," said Singhal.
"In recent years Valentine's Day has assumed great significance in our social calendars, especially amongst youth. A lot of the celebrations centre on drinking. This campaign will send out a special message to our youth to drink safe and drive sober."
(Shweta Srinivasan can be contacted at Shweta.firstname.lastname@example.org)