Drinking can’t get priority over death

Have we also locked down our brains during the lockdown? The case here is of the 48 hours of liquor mayhem we saw on Indian streets. God knows how many hundreds of crores we added in our empty coffers and how much that is going to inject the booster dose into our economy in the ICU, but one thing was loud and clear — we have added thousands in the corona-positive tally and are closer to entering the danger zone of community transmission. All the advantages India had due to early lockdown and strict social distancing norms, for which the nation earned a worldwide recognition, were done and dusted in just a few hours of those long, unending queues of liquor-thirsty Indians. At the risk of facing the ire of the country’s tipplers, I feel it’s unwise to open alcohol stores when the Covid-19 outbreak in the country is only getting bigger and graver.

In a country where ‘drinking’ gets priority over death, it only exposes the myopic vision of our policymakers, who just cannot see beyond the revenue aspect of liquor. Agreed that the alcohol sale gets the state about Rs 1.75 lakh crore a year. If that is an assured income, then why be worried about the economy? In fact, people will drink more this year to cover up for the lockdown period and the revenue may cross Rs 2 lakh crore or more. But who will pay if India loses thousands more lives due to social distancing and lockdown norms being flouted in the last 48 hours? Perhaps the state governments could have thought of other ways to add to the revenue resources.

Take the case of China, Taiwan and Vietnam. The local economy there is back on the upswing, and people are returning to streets and in restaurants — all this because they strictly followed a near three-month lockdown. And if liquor was the only way out to boost our coffers, as state governments argue, did we plan adequately and visualise what’s in offing? Unruly crowd, violence on streets, inadequate security personnel not ensuring social distancing. None. This lack of adequate preparations led to an eventual flop show as several liquor vends had to down their shutters in just 48 hours, but not before putting thousands at Covid-19 risk. We were not prepared and didn’t see that coming. In fact, the basic rule of journalism says — when in doubt, cut it out! Policymakers should have taken a cue from that. It shouldn’t have happened. At least, for a month more.

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