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Thursday, Oct 17, 2019

You can vote, marry, but not drink?

I waited to turn 18 so I could finally get my driver’s licence. Then, I waited to turn 21 so I could finally step into a happening nightclub and have my first real drink. Rishabh Iyer writes.

mumbai Updated: Jun 05, 2011 01:26 IST
Rishabh Iyer
Rishabh Iyer
Hindustan Times

I waited to turn 18 so I could finally get my driver’s licence. Then, I waited to turn 21 so I could finally step into a happening nightclub and have my first real drink.

Now, at 21-and-a-half, the state tells me I am unfit to consume alcohol any more.

So I can work at 18, vote at 18, drive at 18 and even marry at 21, why should I wait till 25 to have my first drink? Clearly, this law has not been implemented keeping in mind the times we live in. The legal drinking age limit in other states in India is still 18, which means I can walk into a local watering hole in Bengaluru or Kolkata, but I cannot consume liquor in the comfort of my own home in Mumbai.

I consider this an infringement on my personal freedom.

Being a hardcore liberal, I enjoy the freedom that democracy gives us. It is something this country has thrived on and also the reason why certain regional parties that like to govern our morals have not come into power in the past 10 years.

We choose our government, then we trust it to create a set of policies by which we can all live. We abide by these policies, even when they involve a 60% service tax on alcohol, and capital-intensive short-term solutions such as power and water subsidies for farmers.

But we must draw the line when their policies govern our way of life and interfere with our personal choices, especially when those choices have no potential to harm another individual.

The hike in the legal drinking age reminds me of the unreasonable hike in jaywalking fines — from Rs 100 to Rs 2,000 — a few years ago, a move that I found particularly absurd given that most of our city has no pavements.

Corruption in India stems from bureaucratic and archaic rules like that one, and now, once again, the state has imposed a rule that will only boost corruption and red tape.

By raising the legal drinking age from 21 to 25, and introducing a new rule on permits, it increases the amount of bureaucracy and paperwork a vendor must go through in order to procure alcohol.

He will most likely just shell out a few hundred rupees to grease the palms of the local law enforcers, while the consumer works his way around the law in a similar manner.

Meanwhile, as an informed individual capable of paying taxes and choosing my own government, I fail to understand the reason behind this law. The state can claim this law is meant to help prevent binge drinking and alcoholism, but exactly how is that going to work?

In a time when 16-year-olds are downloading adult films and 18-year-olds are sipping vodka, how is a poorly-thought-out law going to change the choices that grown men and women make?

Even during Prohibition, people found bootleggers willing to get them a blend of their favourite scotch. It will take a lot more than a random law to change alcohol consumption habits in adults.

Hopefully, as protests mount — and as even Delhi considers lowering the legal drinking age from 25 to 21 — the Maharashtra government will realise this too.

(Rishabh Iyer is an engineering student and lives in Andheri)

(The Reader’s Editor column will return in a week)

First Published: Jun 05, 2011 01:24 IST

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