The New Delhi state government in India has decided to favor the alcohol industry over the people in a decision to weaken alcohol policy measures in the state.

The state government of New Delhi announced on October 7 that restaurants will be allowed to operate 24/7. The requirement of tourism licenses will also be removed. Removal of other measures such as initiating a process to abolish the health trade licenses and police licenses given by the local authorities for restaurants is also on the table. The measures are supposed to recover the restaurant and tourism industry and the overall economy since COVID-19 hit the state.

This move will abolish the 1:00 AM closing time for restaurants that serve alcohol. About 650 of the 20,000 registered restaurants in the capital city are licensed to sell alcohol. This would make alcohol more available in the city throughout the day and night. Consequently alcohol harm is set to rise.

The decisions were taken at a meeting chaired by the New Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and attended by the alcohol industry lobby group National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI). This shows the extent of Big Alcohol interference in public health policy in the New Delhi administration. Apparently the decisions follow the state’s “ease of doing business” model – to the detriment of the people.

Business might be easy but at what cost to the communities? Already New Delhi sees heavy alcohol consumption and resulting harm. As Movendi International reported, a survey showed Delhiites consume 500,000 litres of alcohol worth of INR 60 million every month. This includes 40% male and 20% female Delhiites who use alcohol.

The harm from this high consumption is apparent in records from the Indian capital’s leading hospitals that suggest that 20% of new cases reported in the outpatients department (OPD) and emergency sections are caused by consumption of alcohol. These cases include hospitalizations due to pain from chronic liver disease, alcoholic pancreatic disease, alcoholic gastritis, alcohol withdrawal delirium, as well as violence and injuries.

On average, the capital’s households spend about 1% of their hard-earned income on alcohol every month.

INR 60 million
Spending of scarce resources on alcohol
A survey reported that Delhiites consume 500,00 litres of alcohol worth INR 60 million every month.
Alcohol fuels hospitalizations
The same survey reported, 20% of new cases reported in the outpatients department and emergency sections are caused by alcohol.

Alcohol harm drains scarce resources

One modeling study found that economically India loses 1.45% of its GDP due to alcohol. This is more than the country’s entire health spending which is 1.28% of its GDP. In numbers, between 2011 and 2050 India stands to lose US$2.2 trillion – accounting for tax revenues – due to alcohol costs.

On top of the existing harm from alcohol, COVID-19 exacerbates the problem. Alcohol adds to the burden as it weakens immunity and makes people more susceptible to the virus and its complications. Alcohol-related hospital admissions burden the healthcare system which is at or even over capacity due to the pandemic. This is why the World Health Organization (WHO) has advised countries to limit alcohol availability during the pandemic.

Considering the public health and economic costs of alcohol to people and communities in the state, New Delhi needs improved, modern alcohol policy solutions, not weaker ones that cater to Big Alcohol. The decision by the government to make alcohol more available will increase alcohol problems in the city and thus further fuel costs to the healthcare system and the overall economy.

Source Website: Jagran Josh