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Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019

There’s no quick fix for nuisance of public drinking in Gurugram

After reporting for a five-part series on public drinking, which concluded last Monday, we realised that the root of the problem may be the deeply entrenched cultural conditioning that defies law and order.

gurgaon Updated: Aug 26, 2018 05:54 IST
Leena Dhankhar
Leena Dhankhar
Hindustan Times, Gurugram
It isn’t that only the people who belong to economically weaker sections of the society drink in the open. For many of the city’s top executives and well-paid members of the corporate world, drinking in the open seems to be more fun.
It isn’t that only the people who belong to economically weaker sections of the society drink in the open. For many of the city’s top executives and well-paid members of the corporate world, drinking in the open seems to be more fun. (Parveen Kumar/HT)
         

It is common knowledge that Gurugram has a drinking problem. Soon after one enters the city, a row of ‘English wine and beer shop’ signboards welcome you. Such shops dot almost all areas of the city. The problem becomes evident at night when men flock to these vends in large numbers and drink in the open, even though ahaatas in the vicinity provide space specifically for consuming alcohol.

Usually, the problem of open drinking is pegged as an issue of governance. However, after reporting for a five-part series on public drinking, which concluded last Monday, we realised that the root of the problem may be the deeply entrenched cultural conditioning that defies law and order.

It isn’t that only the people who belong to economically weaker sections of the society drink in the open. For many of the city’s top executives and well-paid members of the corporate world, drinking in the open seems to be more fun. But why? The city isn’t devoid of bars, pubs and restaurants. There are plenty of such places, including ahaatas, which serve alcohol legally.

My colleagues and I visited liquor vends across the city for the series and we were surprised to notice the brazenness of the act of drinking in public places.

“Why should anyone have a problem if we are enjoying a drink in the open unless we are bothering anyone or disturbing anyone’s peace,” said a South City 2 resident. Several other people told us they enjoyed drinking in the open as they found it more exciting as they sang, chatted and casually abused each other.

Executives were seen drinking outside their parked cars, bottles and snacks kept on the car’s roof. They said this is the best way to drink, under the open sky, smoking and remembering old days with friends. “When you tell your wife that you are going out for drinks with friends in a car, she will never accompany you. But, if going to a bar or a pub is an option, she would want to hang around. So this is the best way to enjoy with friends,” said one of the MNC executives.

The solution may not lie in police crackdown alone. When people have an urge to drink, they will find a way. Instead, we should facilitate an easier, safer and economical method for people to indulge in this act.

High-end bars, and even ahaatas, create a class divide with their prices, leaving many people seeking a drink with no place to actually find one. Liquor in these bars is priced five times higher than the actual cost. The cheapest beer bottle in any bar in Gurugram will cost you ₹350.

As a result, chaos prevails outside liquor vends, where there is no security or police presence. Moreover, liquor vendors are aware of this gap in the supply chain, and are only too happy to encourage the menace. Most liquor vends in the city have a bottle opener tied to a plastic string—an open invitation to anyone who just bought a bottle to open it right at the vend. Residents pointed out that inebriated people not only create nuisance, but also get into brawls. Drinking outside these vends can lead to violence and drunk driving. Unlike a pub or a bar, no one keeps a check who is doing what.

Police told us that drinking at home is also not an option for many people. “In many cases, men have pleaded with us to let them go as that was the only time they could relax. Families don’t allow drinking at home and don’t appreciate spending money at bars. Often men do not even tell their spouses about their habit of drinking,” said Anil Kumar, assistant commissioner of police, DLF.

One solution might be to educate younger people about the hazards of irresponsible drinking so they do not grow up to perpetuate this vice. Meanwhile, a more tangible way to address the issue is to appeal to ahaatas to lower prices, so they become more accessible to people of all classes.