India: Largest Democracy Goes Sober on Election Day
India will ban alcohol sales during the upcoming election days in celebration of democracy. The election commission will institute the ban on alcohol sales 48 hours ahead of closing the polls in the voting constituency and on May 23, 2019 which is counting day.
Instituting alcohol-free days and periods is common in India, for example regarding the celebration of festivals, on national holidays such as Gandhi Jayanthi and Independence Day as well as on religious festival days. Such alcohol bans are implemented either locally, state-wide or nation-wide.
India will be issuing the alcohol ban for the election days as the national election is considered a festival of democracy. Accordingly within the next two months 15 alcohol-free days will be implemented nation-wide. In India, limiting alcohol is as old as Independence. Gandhi campaigned for alcohol bans across the country and to this day certain states have a complete ban on alcohol.
Alcohol Related Problems in India
India used to be a country with a significantly high number of abstainers. The situation has changed as of 1960 and since then alcohol consumption has risen 330% according to OECD data reported by Quartz India.
The WHO reports the per capita consumption of alcohol for India at 5.7 liters, which is above the average of the WHO South East Asian region.
India shows an increasing trend for alcohol use which is problematic as the country is already placed at the higher end for years of life lost due to alcohol. Indian men suffer both alcohol use disorder and alcohol dependence significantly above the average of the region.
Alcohol is a Human Rights issue
Indian women’s rights activists and advocates have long since pushed for much better alcohol control, including alcohol bans. This is due to the high number of men who consume alcohol and then use it as an excuse for violence and specifically domestic violence, as well as other problems like loss of income, healthcare spending and malnutrition. Studies have shown that states enforcing stronger control over alcohol distribution and consumption generally register lower levels of gender-based violence.
Alcohol is also seen as related with other criminal and political violence. This is one of the main reasons for the ban of alcohol on election days. Lowering the aggression levels especially against women is important to get all Indians, including women, to vote.
In India alcohol is also used by politicians and political parties to bribe voters. This is specifically true of poverty stricken areas with a high alcohol consumption rate. According to the most recent data by the election commission alcohol worth of 192.067 crores in Indian Rupees (approximately $28 million) intended for bribing has been seized by the commission.
In view of these crimes and the harm of alcohol, banning access to alcohol till voting polls close is a positive step towards protecting democracy and rights of all Indians.