PROHIBITION-ITS IMPACT ON OUR SOCIETY
“Drinking is a curse. A nation, addicted to drinking has its future completely doomed. A Government that fattens its purse by selling alcoholic drinks to its people makes prostitution of its sacred function, of making its people morally better and spiritually elevated. A nation of drunkards is a morally and spiritually dwarfed section of humanity.”
Indeed, drinking has all along been the worst misfortune that has ever befallen mankind. It has been a damned curse which is responsible for the utter ruin of many a nation. The great Roman Empire, the mighty Mughal Empire and many others had been cast into oblivion of sheer degeneration under destructive and damaging impact of drinking. In almost all the religions of the world—Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism—drinking has been condemned as a sin. According to Islam, a drunkard has no place in Paradise and that his place would be in the worst part of Hell, where he would be cast into eternal fire of torture. He can never expect to be forgiven by God.
Prohibition implies banning of alcoholic drinks. It was first introduced in America in 1923 but due to certain unavoidable reasons it failed completely. Then, it was experimented in China, where the Government laid special stress on banning of opium. The scheme which operated in the country for a period of three years had a partial success. The Indian National Congress, even before ‘India’s independence had made it one of their basic features of programme to launch a countrywide campaign for prohibiting intoxicating drinks. Satyagrahas were offered for the same purpose and our leaders had to court imprisonment for picketing wine shops during the British-regime. Immediately after independence when the Congress formed Government at the Centre and in all the States (then known as Provinces) excepting Punjab and Bengal, prohibition was experimented and in most of the States it did have a substantial success. At the All India Congress session of 1953 it was unanimously resolved that in some States there should be complete prohibition. The Constitution (Article 47) enjoin on the State to endeavor to bring about prohibition of the consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs. In December 1954, the Prohibition Enquiry Committee was appointed to suggest a programme and machinery for the implementation of the Directive. The Committee recommended that schemes of prohibition be integrated with the country’s development plans. This was affirmed by a resolution in the Lok Sabha on March 31,1956.
At present there is complete prohibition in the States of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu only. There is ban on chinking in the public places and partial prohibition in most of the other States.
Now let us recall a brief history of .drinking. It is thought that during the Ashokan period of Indian history, indulgence in drinks and drugs was considered to be a crime—something contrary to the principles of religion, i.e., Buddhism. According to Magasthenese, who visited India during the reign of Chandragupta Maurya, the Government strictly supervised the manufacture and sale of intoxicating drinks. Most of the Mu slim rulers in India had put strict restrictions on sale of intoxicating wines even though they themselves lavishly indulged in drinking. It was, however, during the days of the East India Company that India’s cultural and national progress suffered a heavy loss. The alien rulers in their anxiety to find more money from India to fill their own country’s coffer, introduced liquor-revenue and revenue on exploit drugs.
In India, the story of prohibition, properly speaking, begins with Mahatma Gandhi’s campaign against this injurious habit. Gandhiji regarded it as one of the causes that demoralized the world, because it has brought the downfall of many a mighty empire. However, prohibition through legislation was introduced in India after the attaining of independence.
Prohibition creates certain difficult problems. The first problem is unemployment. In Andhra, Bengal and Assam there are lakhs of people engaged in the production of Tari, a kind of intoxicating drink. In the event of introducing complete prohibition in these States, all these people would be thrown out of their source of earning livelihood. Then there is the toughest problem—to check illicit manufacture and sale of intoxicating drinks. The report of the All India Prohibition Committee revealed the fact that in most of the ‘dry areas’ there have been ‘floods of illicit wine’. It is a pity and a matter of disgrace, too, to note that police and excise officials and their staff, deputed to make the scheme a success, most miserably abused—rather prostituted—their basic functions, thereby making prohibition an utter failure in some States.
Prohibition is a measure of social reform, which has a moral basis. Mere legislative sanction cannot make it a success, though it can be enforced with the aid of law. For making prohibition a genuine success, the first and foremost task is to give special type of moral and social education to the masses. Moreover, prohibition has to be enforced gradually and not all of a sudden. People must cooperate with the Government in making prohibition a success in the real sense of the term.