Definitely, the Government imagines that handholding a nation of 1.252 billion will teach our multitudes the discretionary wisdom to judge right from wrong. Strangely, when looked at in entirety, one wonders if it is the Government that needs handholding to help it understand the cockamamie ideas, policies, regulations and laws it comes up with.
Sure, we can blame a lot of it on our repression during colonial rule under the British Raj, but in all fairness, that was 60 years ago and in a world that used telegrams and asked the locals at the train station for directions instead of sending emails and using GPS maps to find their way. A lot has happened but in keeping with the school of thought espoused by the Gora Sahebs, the Government has a lot to learn about letting its citizens remain intellectually mature.
Patriotism and Bollywood: A Case in Point
If it was only possible to instill a sense of patriotism in citizens by televising patriotic songs in the hope that repetition will inspire the downtrodden to awaken the spark of patriotism within. Unfortunately, it seems that it’s possible to garner a lot more patriotism at a One Day International cricket match than it ever will with decades of public service messages.
Then there is Bollywood; which manifests itself in myriad ways by providing our ministers with ready examples while discussing very important issues. Need perspective on disabled children, mention Tare Zameen Par, want to talk about education in India, mention 3 Idiots, want to get people on the same page for gender sensitivity, quote Pink and so on and so forth, ad nauseam.
After showing countless heroes smoking cigarettes and baddies chomping on cigars for 40 years, all of a sudden the authorities wake up and start showing irritating interstitial cautionary messages interrupting the flow of the story and thinks it deserves a pat on the back for raising awareness. Come on, even a pothole on the road makes people take notice, but how many ever remember the pothole once it is behind them?
This imaginary feud resulting in a long song and dance between a ‘titillated’ junta and a conservative ‘sarkaar’ has gone on for too long now. Even the remake of Devdas has pushed drinking into the background, which is no longer the centerpiece of the story, the two female leads were. On screen, drinking is something that Indians don’t, or are not supposed to, do for enjoyment. Drinking is against Indian culture and brought into the country by foreign invaders or it was shown for comic effect! Perhaps it is just this patriarchal attitude that governed the history of probation of alcohol in India.
Ghost of Prohibitions Past & Present
In each and every instance of prohibition, be it Gujarat or Kerala, there has been a resurgence of a host of unhealthy elements that society seems surprised to find as the outcomes of prohibition. The so-called War on Alcohol is intrinsically biased against the poor, the working class, migrant and marginalized communities. Usually the diktat of those who take a higher moral ground being non-drinkers, prohibition rarely goes after the root cause, increased awareness of the pitfalls of alcoholism.
India’s Government has showed a complete apathy and continuous hypocrisy towards educating the masses by allowing decades of surrogate advertising to sell alcohol as ‘bottled water’ and letting a beer brand become an airline. Drinking simply cannot be treated as a moral disorder. Allowing permits in the name of ‘medical grounds’ is just one of the blatant hypocrisies that seem to be embedded into prohibition laws to allow the ones who can afford it, a loophole to imbibe. Sweeping statements made as election promises cannot be fulfilled by blanket bans and history is witness to this fact. If at all, soon the path to prohibition becomes a green channel to crime.
In the next part of this article, we shall take a look at the biggest case of prohibition in history. Needless to say, it failed miserably, despite being enforced for a good 13 years.
Read the second article of this series here.