Kerala’s love affair with alcohol

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou

A Glass of Destruction !

Beside me singing in the Wilderness–
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow! -[The Rubaiyat By Omar Khayyam Written 1120 A.C.E.]

Onam, the Main celebration of Kerala :
This year too, the head lines of the day : 10 September 2011 can be predicted today.
The Grand sale of Alcohol, and how the Keralites celebrated the festival in an alcoholic ecstasy, which were in previous times, a spiritual one.

kerala celeberates

External Source and spark came from :

People in the southern state of Kerala are the heaviest drinkers in India, and sales of alcohol are rising fast.

Kerala is India’s tippler country. It has the highest per capita consumption – over eight litres (1.76 gallons) per person a year – in the nation, overtaking traditionally hard-drinking states like Punjab and Haryana.

Also, in a strange twist of taste, rum and brandy are the preferred drink in Kerala in a country where whisky outsells every other liquor.

Alcohol helps in giving Kerala’s economy a good high – shockingly, more than 40% of revenues for its annual budget come from booze.

A state-run monopoly sells alcohol. The curiously-named Kerala State Beverages Corporation (KSBC) runs 337 liquor shops, open seven days a week. Each shop caters on average to an astonishing 80,000 clients.

This fiscal year the KSBC is expected to sell $1bn (£0.6bn) of alcohol in a state of 30 million people, up from $12m when it took over the retail business in 1984.

Similarly, revenues from alcohol to the state’s exchequer have registered a whopping 100% rise over the past four years.

The monopoly is so professionally run that consumers can even send text messages from their phones to a helpline number to record their grievances.

That’s not all. There are some 600 privately run bars in the state and more than 5,000 shops selling toddy (palm wine), the local brew. There is also a thriving black market liquor trade.

Rising numbers of divorces in Kerala are linked to alcohol abuse. Johnson J Edayaranmula, who runs the Alcohol and Drug Information Centre, a leading NGO, puts the figure as high as 80%.

And the majority of road deaths in the state – nearly 4,000 during 2008-2009 – are due to drink driving, he says. Hospitals and rehab centres are packed with patients suffering from alcohol-related diseases.

The situation is so grim that, ironically, the KSBC itself is planning to open a hospital specialising in treating alcohol-related problems. It also runs a campaign to combat alcohol abuse.

But why do people in Kerala drink so heavily?

Jacob Varghese says it is a “societal problem” – what he possibly means is that drinking liquor is almost a social rite of passage, taken very seriously.

But he elaborates other, perhaps more important, reasons – high unemployment, easy access to alcohol and the fact that drinking has become a “part of upwardly mobile living”.

Most activists believe that “prohibition” is not the solution – it just drives buyers and sellers underground.

“The solution possibly lies in introducing drinks with mild alcohol content. And since drinking is also a cultural problem, people need to be made aware of the havoc that alcohol can wreak on their lives,”

Onam !

Until some miracle happens, alcohol will continue to dominate the lives of many of Kerala’s people – and boost its exchequer’s finances.

Author: renjiveda

I'm not I

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