Two days after stating that he did not consider liquor an “intoxicant”, Punjab health minister Surjit Kumar Jyani in a U-turn on Wednesday said that alcohol was the “root cause of all ills” and favoured a countrywide prohibition and the closure of all distilleries.
After facing flak from various quarters over his bizzare remark that “I don’t think ‘sharab’ (liquor) is an intoxicant,” the senior BJP leader, sought to clarify the context in which he had made the statement.
Asked if he favours prohibition, the Minister addressing a press conference said, “There should be a ban. There should be a countrywide ban on alcohol. Today, I am saying in the media that ban alcohol and all distilleries should also be shut down.”
When asked to comment on the controversy, the “teetotaller” minister said, “There has been a debate in the media quoting me as saying that alcohol is a good thing to have and that I don’t consider alcohol as an intoxicant. I have never said anything like that and have been quoted out of context as my statement was twisted”.
“Let me clarify a few things, there is no bigger vice than alcohol. Alcohol is the root cause for all ills, for various problems, diseases, various crimes and it should not be consumed.
“When mediapersons had asked me a question about drug problem, I had said that I do not include people consuming alcohol in the addict category,” he said.
Continuing further, he said, “For instance, (Congress leader) Rahul Gandhi had said 70 per cent youths in Punjab are addicted to drugs, some others say 60 per cent have fallen prey to the menace. When I was talking to mediapersons, I said I don’t want to count alcohol as addiction, reasoning that government gives licenses and we have liquor vends and excise policy in place.”
He even narrated an old tale to highlight his point that alcohol was the root cause of various ills.
“But the media said that I have become ambassador of alcohol. I said I will not take it as a factor in counting when we refer to addicts.
“If we start to link alcohol to include those who drink it as addicts, then you will find its (alcohol’s) presence in all spheres of life, including it being served in parties, in the Army, even in the Press Club, alcohol is there. If we say anyone who consumes alcohol is an addict, then its like defaming all of them,” he said.
Replying to a question, he said, “I dont drink alcohol, I say there can be no bad thing than alcohol.”
The BJP minister had made the remarks on alcohol on Monday during an interaction after inaugurating a de-addiction centre at Gidderbaha in Muktsar district.
Jyani was holding the press conference here today on the works of his Department of Health and Family Welfare during 2015.