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Should the minimum age for alcohol consumption in India be reduced?

Dear Honorable Prime Minister

Australia call it 18, Canada call it 18, Argentina call it 18.Why not India? I am writing to you to express the views of many Indian citizens under the age of twenty-five as the new law implemented by your government declares that the public consumption of alcohol by anyone under the age of twenty-five is illegal.

If young adults in India at the age of eighteen are entrusted with the right to take a bullet for the country; the right to vote for whom they believe should be a potential leader of a billion people; the right to choose their life partners, why shouldn’t they be allowed to buy and consume alcohol in their social environment?

Your government claims that the new legislation has been implemented because young adults are not responsible enough, and that keeping them away from alcohol at this tender age will help them lead a better life.In the eyes of your government young men aged 18 must be kept aloof from the temptation of alcohol.

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But should not the statesmen of our country remember that the forbidden fruit looked sweeter and more luscious to our mother Eve only because it was forbidden?

Your government should take a precept from what happened in America in 1919 when the 18th amendment to the U.S. constitution implemented such a ban. Quoting S. B. Duke and A. C. Gross (1993), “if consumption of alcohol was reduced, it wasn’t by much; the costs of enforcement, in money, corruption, crime, disrespect for the law, alcohol and related poisonings far exceeded, by virtually anyone’s measurements, the tiny gains in alcohol control.”1 in my opinion such a measure is only going to boost the sales of alcohol. What happened in Gujarat is evident. The state with a prohibition saw an upsurge of alcoholism, and the climax came when hundreds of people died after consuming poisoned liquor in 2009.

Thus prohibition does not serve anything. Old dogs can indeed learn new tricks. Law experts like advocate Swapnil Kothari said that the age restriction is “ludicrous, arbitrary and suffers from a vague interpretation of wisdom of youth”. 2 And so far being responsible is concerned I believe that responsibility comes with experience, realization, and social maturity, not just age. Legend has it that force hardly succeeds in giving desired results.

It would be foolish to deny that India with its vast population of 1.15 billion, accounting for 17.31% of the world’s population, has, unfortunately, been witness to an increasing alcohol-related death rate per year. However, enacting a law where young people of age 18 can be imprisoned for ‘chugging’ a glass of beer, or ‘downing’ a shot of vodka in a pub is hypocritical because at the same age, here in India people are allowed to start their own enterprises, which include permission to open a club or bar, and work in them. If young adults, as bartenders are allowed to twirl vodka and whiskey bottles in fancy clubs, serve people alcohol all night, but not allowed to take a small sip of what they are serving, is that not hypocritical?

If denied permission to drink in public, young adults under the age of twenty-five will not only perceive alcohol to be a “forbidden fruit”, but also be eager to bite into this “forbidden fruit”, as they want to see what has been kept away from them. This eagerness may lead young adults into committing serious criminal offences, they may buy fake licenses, or bribe bartenders as well as police! Do we really want the youth of India to indulge in such criminal acts, just for alcohol? A wide consideration should be given to the impact of this restriction on the 18 year olds when they start drinking stealthily to escape the consequences of being caught. Won’t this sneaking out be detrimental to their behavior and morale?

In a country where so many rapists are not convicted; killers are not sentenced; jails are jam-packed and murderers are left scot- free, do you really think putting them into jail for such a relatively mediocre crime is an appropriate judgment? It is important for young adults to be familiar with their limitations but by rising the age limit so high does nothing but trigger the curiosity, inquisitiveness and craving for this “forbidden fruit”.

We know young adults drink alcohol anyway, but what is your government doing to help them out? How are you controlling young adults from turning up highly intoxicated to parties? If your government fears excessive drinking at the age of 18, why is no support being provided? What your government can do is install CCTVs in liquor stores, and make harsher punishments for alcohol vendors for serving alcohol to young adults of age 18.

According to your government an 18 year old can get married, in that case would the marriage get raided as the couple picks up a glass of champagne to celebrate? Why are 18 year olds barely allowed to their right to freedom of choice and responsibility of their own body and mind? When an 18-year-old woman has the right to marry and beget a child, what stops her from taking a sip of liquor to enjoy the first birthday of her child? Does not the age restriction look absurd in such a case?

It is time the politicians understood that prohibition, unless backed by strong and relevant data, does not serve any end; sometimes the reverse may just occur.


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