Saturday, January 3, 2009


Kerala is known to many as "God's Own Country", a slogan coined by an enterprising bureaucrat from Delhi when he was in charge of the tourism portfolio and it really clicked internationally bringing tourists in hordes from all corners of the world. The state, one of the smaller ones in the country is endowed with nature's beauty in no small measures with the whole state appearing like a continuous green urban stretch from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasargod with high range hills on the east and the Arabian sea on the west. The population of 32 million is known to be industrious with high productivity and enterprise. It was the top literate state in the country till last year, only to be overtaken by Mizoram recently, with a literacy rate of 90.92% compared to the average Indian figure of 61.3%. The enormous inflow of Gulf money, with about 23 members out of 100 families working abroad, the per capita income is one of the highest in the country ( Rs 11819). Almost 25% of the net domestic product of the state is derived from foreign remittances from the emigrants. The state stands first in Human Development Index and Standard of Living in the Indian sub continent. It is inconceivable that such population here can get bogged down in a state of inebriation due to explosive increase in alcohol consumption.

India is unique in having a plethora of products containing alcohol levels from 6% to 45% and some of them include wine, beer, toddy, arrack, Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL), rum, gin etc. One or two servings of any of these drinks regularly in the evenings can be relaxing and even doctors recommend such a practice considered good after a day's hard work but obsession with alcoholic drinks can lead to addiction and convert people into habitual drunkards. Too much alcohol consumption can lead to liver cirrhosis and consequent fatality. In Kerala with active involvement of the government, liquor consumption has been taken to a new height with over 350 liquor vending outlets of the state owned Beverages Corporation and Consumer Federation competing with each other and with the private bars and toddy shops to hook every one into alcohol consumers to enrich their kitty. Kerala probably may be the only place in the world having an association for boozers under the name, Liquor Consumers Welfare Association to encourage alcohol drinking! The places most crowded in Kerala are not places of worship but the liquor vending outlets where traffic blockade occurs regularly on occasions like new year eve.

The per capita annual consumption of alcohol is highest in Kerala, being 8.3 liters. Assuming that 50% of the male population are teetotalers, the average daily intake of alcohol by a person per day works out to a little less than 100 ml, an astonishing level, considering that the climate here is not conducive to drinking like Russia or Nordic countries ( about 15 liters per person per year). What is appalling is that the consumption goes up during festivals and other occasions and it was reported that during the last two days of 2008 the liquor sale was more than Rs 950 million. One estimate claims that while Kerala spends Rs 75 billion on liquor, the expenditure on the staple food rice was less than Rs 30 billion! The annual revenue to Government from liquor sales through various taxes was Rs 18 billion in 2007 and it is not logical to expect the authorities, who ever rule Kerala to forgo such a huge sum in revenue. Therefore the game will continue with least thoughts for the fate of future generations because of this skewed policy.

Alcoholism has been blamed for increased domestic violence, rise in suicide rates, rapidly escalating fatal traffic crashes ( 72%), loss of productivity due to illness, more premature deaths and rising crime incidence. Is there no escape for this state from its continuing plunge into a world of chaos and misery caused by the increased addiction to alcohol brought about by a senseless government, cash rich spirits industry and a gullible population not taking cognizance of the damages alcohol can cause in the long run? It is not Kerala's problem alone as this trend is evident in many other states also requiring Nation's immediate attention.



Samaw said...

Sir, it is interesting to note that you have taken an active role in this and that someone like you are blogging is a sign of good things to come in our Country. Being someone who had been to your institute and Mysore city, I must say this is an awesome work from you.

Dr. V.H . Potty said...

I am doing this for the sake of future generation food scientists who are much smarter than we were at their age. Therefore thay have a better chance to bring about changes if made sensitive to these problems.