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Quench thirst or save lives?

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Dr. Sneha Gupta
Dr. Sneha Gupta
Assistant Professor in Social Work at Amity University Haryana.

COVID-19, a pandemic that shook the globe with aberrant destructions through its consequence not only on the medical, physical, social fronts but also it has totally impaired the human population on the economic front. In India it started showing its dreadful face with the onset of March 2020. The Indian Government came up with an unprecedented countrywide lockdown to contain and obliterate the bizarre virus. It was propagated by the Govt. in every possible medium that social distancing was the panacea to conquer this global threat. Everyone was advised to abstain from stepping down their homes to break the chain of spread of the virus through contained physical and social contacts. After 42 days of complete countrywide lockdown in two simultaneous phases, the containment of the virus in the county was not as expected and the country had to go for a third phase of lockdown. This time the Govt. though came up with some conditional relaxations of course depending upon the degree of spread in the area. Likewise the giants America and China, India is also going through the immense fiscal loss due to this deadly novel virus. Henceforth, in this phase of lockdown 3.0 the Govt. is simultaneously focusing on curbing the dismal outcomes of disease and also stabilizing the dwindling economy.

Among several relaxations what is gathering all the highlight and attention is the re-opening of liquor Shops. People could be seen in long stretching queues to quench their thirst. On the first day of lifting the ban from liquor sale, pictures on all media and social media platforms are taking rounds of flooded roads with men for buying liquor, jostling and pushing each other in queues before the shops were opened, tearing apart all social and physical distancing norms made by the government itself. We at home are taken aback seeing how people were standing in long queues for hours together in the scorching heat, keeping all social distancing norms at bay just to get that bottle of booze. It was surprising to know people in the county were dying not for food but for liquor. It is ironic to believe that there is any economic distress in the country and it seems that nobody was hungry. All the efforts of the Govt. and people to maintain social distancing all these 40 odd days seemed to get ruined by these ardent spirit loving people. In their effort to get closer to the delivery of the bottle for their thirsty throat inch by inch, their fear for Corona seemed to have lost, No norm no concern nothing, only the alcoholic thirst that has prevailed cutting all the boundaries of rich to poor.

India’s alcohol industry fetches hefty annual excise revenue of more than Rs. 2 trillion which got thrashed during the lockdown. Both the Central and State Govts. are eyeing to quickly re-activate their key source of revenue by resumption of liquor sales and yes the rising fiscal deficits have compelled the Govt. to see no other convenient option than to re-open liquor shops. Already many states including Punjab, Karnataka, and Maharashtra have raised the issues of their revenues taking a hit because of the ban on alcohol sale. 

Repercussions of lifting the ban from liquor sale and its effect on their families comprised of old aged parents, women, and children should also be given a serious thought. Not only the last saved penny of a poor family is being spent by an alcoholic member and the chances of getting higher risk on receiving CORONA virus free with the bottle of the liquor for their innocent children,  elderly, and other family members sharing the same roof.

Why this liquor sale is so dangerous both in social and medical context? As all bars and hotels are closed, everyone purchasing liquor is bound to be consuming the same in the premises of their homes, where their other family members are also present in this lockdown phase. The post effect of this consumption will befall upon the family in numerous ways – The tranquility and calmness of the households will become toxic, case of domestic violence on females and children will shoot up, All the frustration due to economic distress, fear or losing livelihood will erupt in all forms of abuse on the innocents, moreover families with even a single alcohol addict at home will end up existing all the hard-earned savings on liquor purchase as income-generating activities are on a standstill.

All that can be said is that if opening of liquor shops are necessary for the country’s economy, then so is managing the medical and social consequences.

It’s high time now to make our choices clear, quench thirst or save lives.

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Dr. Sneha Gupta
Dr. Sneha Gupta
Assistant Professor in Social Work at Amity University Haryana.
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