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PM Modi takes 360 degree turn, okays Tripler’s day out

Taking a cue from the huge sale of alcohol in the country, the state government has decided to impose a 'Special Corona tax'

Wednesday May 6, 2020 11:56 PM, Syed Ali Mujtaba

Liqour Sales

[Long queues outside liquor shops are seen almost in all cities and towns of India during lockdown.]

At a time in India when the places of worships across all religions are closed and there is a lockdown situation in the country, the government has suddenly decided to open all the liquor shops from May 4, 2020, the 40th day of the Covid-19 lock down.

As a result with the opening of the wine shops, India saw an unprecedented crowd in front of the liquor shops across the country. No one seems to be bothered about the lockdown situation or social distancing norms and each one wanted to quench their thrusts caring two hoots about the dreaded infection.

Like thirsty crows people made beeline of almost two kilometer in front of the booze shops. How much they wanted the intoxicant could be ascertained from the fact that in Karnataka alone Rs 45 crore worth of liquor was sold on the first day and on second the sale went to Rs 147 crore. One person bought liquor worth Rs 52,281 at Vanila Spirit Zone shop in Bangalore.

Similar situation was seen in the north India as well. It is reported that Uttar Pradesh earned Rs 100 crore from the sale of the evil drink, in a single day. The holy city of Varanasi, which is represented by the Prime Minister of India, saw a sale 4 crore on day one. This suggests how badly people were thirsty for consuming liquor since the lock down began.

If there was a desperation seen in the mood of the people flocking to the wine shops, equal desperation was seen on the part of the government to open the wine shops. As the economy is in shambles the government looked in great hurry to raise funds to meet its rising expenses and this was done through the sale of alcohol even at the cost of its ill effects on the society.

One can recall a speech on Oct 05, 2017 made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi where he has raised concerns over the growing problem of alcoholism among youth in India. He had said society will be “ruined” in the next 25 years if the menace alcohol was not checked. The Prime Minister then pretended to be the savior of the Indian society, wanted to save the youth from falling victim to alcoholism.

Like a proverbial Indian who speaks from two mouths, one on the front and other on the back, the Prime Minister now wants to encourage the consumption of alcoholism among the youth. Now he seems to be in no mood to rein this social evil, rather his priority is to revive the sagging economy and this can be done by selling liquor to gain revenue.

In the process what he did was to thrown into dustbin all the gains of the forty days of lock down to flatten the Covid curve. When people were seen jostling in the queue to get a bottle of wine the government did not made any arrangements for the thermal tests to be done on the thirsty crows. There was no paramedical team to screen whether anyone was having any viral symptoms. Police was initially seen maintaining discipline, later backed out and became a spectator of the crowd.

The ‘Godi media’ who came out in good numbers to churn a juicy story were looking for some Tabligi Jamaat members in the tripler’s crowd so that they can go live with news peg of Muslims drinking in the holy month of Ramadan had to do beat a retreat because there was nothing like this for which they sent to cover the story.

Their mentally retarded news editor cannot run an anti-establishment story that would say that it is government that is guilty of spreading the pandemic in the country by opening the wine shops. It is for the same reasons they could not focus on the story that consumption of alcohol is the cause of many socio-economic problems.

And dealing with them may costs three times more than the amount of revenue earned by the government through the liquor sales. How can they run such stories as this could be anti-government and therefore anti-national and as such no media commit such heinous crime for presenting facts before the people or the ‘horse before the cart’?

To all these developments a wit has come up with an explanation and it goes like this; when a drunkard falls down no one will lift him up, but when the country’s economy falls, it’s the drunkard who will lift it up and that’s why the Prime Minister has given his consent to open the wine shops.

Taking a cue from the huge sale of alcohol in the country, the state government has decided to impose a 'Special Corona tax' on the price of the liquor bottles. This move is to boost the government revenue that’s hit hard due to Covid- 19 lockdown.

The causality in this move is the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s concerns that he raised on Oct 05, 2017 about the growing problem of alcoholism in India especially the youth. The fact is drinking age in the country has drastically fallen. The first exposure to alcohol is now pegged to 15 years of age. Added concern is the increasing numbers of women specially girls becoming addicted to alcohol. It is not uncommon to find students stacking liquor bottles in their college hostel rooms.

Much to the surprise, even students of higher secondary schools are getting addicted to alcohol. Women from affluent families are taking to liquor and some girls are also picking up this habit as a societal norm. Everyone seems to be reconciling to the fact that it is inevitable development of modern times or modern day life style.

Notwithstanding the fact whether GDP rate grows or not, the alcohol consumption rate in India is steadily rising and currently it is growing at the rate of 8 per cent every year. This intriguing phenomenon when went viral on May 4 with the opening of the wine shop, I developed a satire on this human saga.

There were three persons watching the long queue in front of the wine shops. First suggested, government should consider supplying liquor through the ration shops or alternatively distribute the ration through the liquor shops. This can take care of both; the food and the drink at one place.

He further suggested opening a pawn shop next to the wine shop, so that those want of liquor can mortgage their women’s jewelry and get money required to buy the drinks.

This wise idea was shot down by the second man. He said this won’t work simply because it’s the women who folk to the ration shops and not the men. They will never buy any bottle for their men and certainly not keep their jewels to pawn shops and buy drinks.

As these men had locked their heads thinking what to do enters the third man and unlocks the situation, He comes up with a bright idea and suggests, at a time when the country is facing Covid crisis and lockdown and social distancing is the norm, the government should consider selling the liquor online. The distribution can be done through Swiggy and Zomato delivery boys and it can serve many purposes.

First, this would avoid large gathering in front of wine shops and people will get the drinks at their door steps. Second the government who wants to make money will have their cash counter ringing on a daily basis and thirdly the crony capitalists will also have their own pound of flesh in the distribution system.

In such a case, all the three stakeholders’ bottle seekers, the government and the crony capitalists will be in a ‘win-win’ situation. And this is the best way how the country can collectively fight the war with Covid-19, the unseen enemy.

Even there is no consensus on this, the government seems convinced that what it is doing is perfectly alright. It had done so when it announced demonetization, it did so when it announced the lock down and now it is doing again by opening the liquor sale.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com. Views expressed are personal]

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