PEOPLE LINE UP TO BUY ALCOHOL OUTSIDE A LIQUOR SHOP AFTER THE GOVERNMENT EASED A NATIONWIDE LOCKDOWN IMPOSED AS A PREVENTIVE MEASURE AGAINST THE SPREAD OF THE COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS IN NEW DELHI ON MAY 4, 2020. PHOTO: SAJJAD HUSSAIN / AFP
Many Indian states have tried to ban alcohol, and achieved different levels of success in doing so. Only this week, Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of the eastern state of Bihar, called for stricter enforcement of the ban he put in place in 2016.However, the findings of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2019-20, that was released on December 15, raise questions on whether the prohibition on sale and consumption of alcohol has actually worked. It turns out that Bihar sees higher alcohol consumption than some states that don’t have any such restrictions in place, with 15.8 percent and 14 percent of rural and urban men consuming alcohol respectively. Telangana, with no restrictions, ranked the highest on this list, with 43.3 percent of men consuming alcohol.
On the other hand, Gujarat, which reinstated a ban on alcohol when it became an independent state in 1961, sees the lowest consumption among states, with only 5.8 percent of men consuming alcohol. Lakshadweep, the only union territory with an alcohol ban, reports consumption by only 0.4 percent of men. However, despite having similar prohibitions in place, the northeastern states of Mizoram and Nagaland report high percentages of alcohol consumption. While 24 percent of men consume alcohol in Nagaland, 23.8 percent of their counterparts in Mizoram do so. Mizoram also ranks first when it comes to tobacco consumption, with 61.6 percent of women and 72.9 percent men consuming tobacco. Placing last on this list, the states of Goa and Karnataka see overall tobacco use by only 10.4 and 17.8 percent of the population respectively. Overall, the report reveals that the use of tobacco is higher than that of alcohol in the country. It is also surprising that Goa, which many people associate with booze-fuelled good times, sees lower alcohol consumption by men at 36.9 percent, than Telangana, which along with neighbouring state Andhra Pradesh, is known to have a more conservative stance on alcohol. The survey also found that rural areas trump urban cities when it comes to drinking. Another common observation throughout the data is the vast difference in the consumption of alcohol between men and women, be it in rural or urban areas. Even in Telangana, only 6.7 percent of women consume alcohol. In Manipur, which sees sizable alcohol consumption in men at 37.5 percent, only 0.9 percent of women consume alcohol. At the same time, women in Sikkim and Assam grabbed the first two spots with 16.2 percent and 7.3 percent respectively. Women in many states in India are known to be averse to alcohol. In Bihar, Kumar cited a strong demand from women and children as one of the reasons for strict regulations on alcohol consumption. Women blame liquor for their husbands’ abusive behaviour and worry about the example it sets for their children. Women in Kerala complained of the same, which became one of the reasons for a ban imposed in 2014, that was overturned by the Left Democratic Front government in 2017. Reeling from the consequences of rampant alcoholism among men in rural areas, many women in the south Indian state of Karnataka have also protested using their vote. For the last few years, the state has been witnessing a large-scale movement led by rural women demanding prohibition. Similar demands have been made by women in the neighbouring states of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh as well. The new findings are part of the report released by the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare as the facts and key indicators on population, reproductive and child health, family welfare, nutrition and others for 22 States/Union Territories (UTs) of the First Phase of the 2019-20 National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) on December 15. The NFHS-5 is being conducted by the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) in around 6.1 lakh (0.61 million) sample households in India.Follow Snigdha on Twitter.