On 9th August the Gauhati High Court passed an order to close down all wine shops and bars, including bars and pubs in clubs, restaurants, lounge bars and hotels in Guwahati which are located within the radius of 500 metres from hospitals, dispensaries, nursing homes, place of worship, educational or other similar buildings and institutions. Such an intervention from the judiciary, in fact, was long overdue and it has received mixed responses.
Now, the point is that these outlets were permitted to establish and sell liquor, by the administration and the Government itself. It was a serious blunder on the part of the administration and the Government to allow wine shops and bars to mushroom in Kamrup (Metro) in brazen violation of rules and norms. It’s really shocking that over a hundred bars and wine shops had been operating over a stretch of 200-300 metres on the GS Road, with most of those defying norms. This is an extremely serious issue, and raises some questions as to how they managed to obtain permission for operating and why had the administration been silent on the illegal practice.
Though the order states that the ban is within 500 metres of those establishments, this will lead Guwahati to become a dry city. There is no denying in the fact that easy availability of liquor at every nook and corner of the city and the state till mid-night is one of the causes of a number of crimes including the latest molestation case at G.S. Road on the night of 9th July. But liquor is not the sole element behind the heart- rending incident of 9th July, but the government’s weak policy, inactions and inefficiencies of the police, dirty mentality of some dirty people are all responsible for that tragic incident.
On the other hand, by suddenly shutting them all down will be a blunder as it will create a lot of problems. Over 300 wine shops and more than 100 bars in Guwahati, provide a significant avenue of employment to a large number of people. The young people who manage the wine shops and pubs will be left with no option but to take up illegal means of earning livelihood. It will add fuel to the growing unemployment problem.
Secondly, the people who are addicted to liquor are very likely to search other intoxicating things like drugs etc.Our neighbouring states such as Nagaland and Manipur which are dry have very high incidents of drug abuse. Do we want to see this happening in Guwahati?
Use of dendrite, erazex etc. will increase, which is much more harmful than alcohol. These contain a substance called toluene, a sweet smelling and intoxicating hydrocarbon which is neurotoxin. When these intoxicants are smeared on a piece of cloth and inhaled, the users feel euphoric (high, and experience a sense of invincibility). But they dissolve the membrane of the brain cells and cause hallucinations
Thirdly, if liquor is banned permanently in Guwahati, there will be a flourishing open black market. People who want to drink will do so by any means. Here, the case of Gujarat is noteworthy .There is a flourishing open black market in that state.
Fourthly, since 9th August an unprecedented rush of wine lovers has been witnessed in the wine shops at Khanapara seeking a bottle of their favourite liquor. Assam will lose a huge amount of revenue, a lot of which will go to Meghalaya. In fact, Assam’s loss will be Meghalaya’s gain. This is the most unfortunate part of the whole judgement.
The Government may consider lessening the 500 metre limit, and bringing it down to 100-300 metre. 500 metre radius in a city with population density like Guwahati’s is not reasonable. The existing rule of not selling liquor to minors should be strictly enforced. In addition to that, prouducing identity and age proof such as PAN Card, driving licence, identity card etc. must be made mandatory at the wine shops and bars. Besides, installation of cctv (closed circuit television) must be made compulsory in bars, including bars and pubs in clubs, restaurants, lounge bars and hotels in Guwahati . A rule must be formulated to cancel licences permanently of those outlets selling liquor, including wine shops and bars that violate the rules. Mere banning these outlets and bars will not bring the desired result rather will generate a lot of new challenges and social problems before the administration and the Government.It is no exaggeration to say that the Government’s liberal policy of encouraging liquor business with an eye on revenue is dehumanizing the society. Hence, now it’s high time the Government did the needful to break the prevailing deadlock.