Last week, Samrat Chadha, one of the head honchos at the UB Group, drove his BMW into an autorickshaw, injuring three people. After hours of negotiation with the police, he was made to take an alcometer test, which proved positive. With drunken driving incidents like these on the rise - a number of them fatal - and more and more states taking to the idea of prohibition, is it time for Karnataka to follow suit?
A counsellor for rehab inmates and long-time member of Alcoholics Anonymous rubbished the idea at once. Suresh (name changed) chose to remain anonymous, in keeping with the group's policy, but said, "That's quite stupid. The state would lose out on a lot of revenue. And the bottom line is that it would only hit the poor man. The rich, like Samrat Chadha, will not be affected by it at all. They know how to procure alcohol and can afford to pay for it."
Chadha, he said, exhibits definite signs of a drinking problem — "He doesn't know his limits, clearly. This is the second stage of the disease, when the alcoholic begins blacking out. When they are under the influence, they have no idea what they are doing, lose their sense of judgment and don't remember it the next day."
Today's lifestyle, Suresh explained, has a big role to play in these incidents. Drinking is now a celebrated part of our culture and is an almost inextricable part of meeting "social commitments." It's up to the individual, he explained, to know his limits. The effects, of course, are mostly visible among the wealthier sections of society - "A man who doesn't own a car will end up in a brawl on the streets or at home. The principle is the same, though. You don't know what you're doing and the next day, you're wondering what on earth happened."
Not everybody who drinks has a problem, of course and Alcoholics Anonymous has stats at the ready to back this. "Out of a 100 people who drink, 10 are problem drinkers," Suresh said. "Out of those ten, three will turn into alcoholics." And it's unfair to blame the condition on anybody else, he added. "The blame game can go on and on - your boss fired you, so you drink. Your wife didn't listen to you, so guess what - you drank! Every alcoholic has a thousand excuses to have a drink and it's upto him to come to terms with it."
Still, the fact that money is easy to come by these days has played a major role in the drinking culture we see today. "Everyone can afford to go out for a drink - or three. It's a part of office life as well - corporate companies need to spread awareness among their employees. Alcohol is a fashion statement."
The onus cannot be lifted entirely from the government, even if prohibition is not the answer - "I might be an A.A. member, but that doesn't mean I'm against drinking," Suresh remarked, with a laugh. "Still, the government can spread awareness and work with groups like A.A. - who will help for free, by the way. We need more stringent rules in place." Getting caught for driving drunk means a fine, yes, but that's the end of that and it simply won't do.
"Every time a case of drunken driving or domestic abuse brought on by alcohol is reported in the station, cops should know what to do. Sending people to rehab or to A.A. meetings for a stipulated time period should become part of the system. That's how things are done in the West and it works very well. But we, as a society, don't understand the meaning or the implications of alcoholism." Far from recommending an A.A. meeting to a repeat offender, cops, he said, respond with, "Did the wine shop invite these people to drink'? That's the kind of reaction we get, even though we don't charge any money for what we do."
Very little government funding goes into long term plans, Suresh added. "You have departments like the Welfare Board, which don't do anything. They're just a farce and completely politically motivated. If a little bit of the money allocated to them was put to the use for which it was intended, society would come a long way.”...