Shankersinh Vaghela: Prohibition in Gujarat is an issue that has been debated by generations. It is not a political issue and it is time for the government to shed its arrogance and take decisions based on scientific evidence that will benefit the citizens. The BJP has failed to effectively implement prohibition in the state and if it decides to lift it, chaos will ensue. But, one thing is clear that it is not democracy if a government elected by people decides what they can eat and drink.
Recently, the government has made the rules related to prohibition more stringent in order to instill fear in the masses. If someone is caught drinking, then cases are being filed against them. All this has irritated people and the government should take note of that. In fact, alcohol prohibition has only resulted in losses for Gujarat. Due to poor implementation, it has resulted in the rise of liquor mafias, anti-social elements, and black money.
At present, political leaders and officials are benefiting from this situation. The illegal money generated through bootlegging is what funds the liquor being offered to voters during elections. The government is not ashamed that money illegally gained through prohibition is what is earning it votes during elections. It is time for the people to oppose the hypocrisy that surrounds prohibition.
It is important for those living an active public life to behave the same way when they are away from the spotlight. We need to come up with a policy for alcohol consumption that among other things focuses on punishing anyone who gets drunk and harasses others and prevents underage drinking. The government should also study states where prohibition is not there and implement a similar system in Gujarat.
In the year 1996-97, the then state government had put a minimum tax on water usage by industries. These earnings were used to ensure drinking water reached the people. Similarly, the earnings from prohibition can be used for health and education in the state. It will also give a boost to tourism.
The fear of prohibition has led to people drinking cheap liquor made of chemicals which results in incidents like the hooch tragedy. It has also resulted in people going to other states for alcohol. It is in the interest of the people that we do away with prohibition and in its place bring an alcohol policy that is based on scientific evidence.
(The writer is a former chief minister of Gujarat and is in active politcs for the last 50 years. The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Gujarat Exclusive.)