Views & Reviews
NLTP Act: What must be seriously considered before lifting
Zhokusheyi Rhakho, Phek town
[dropcap]J[/dropcap]ust few days back, I was travelling in Kohima city bus from High school Junction to Razhu Point. Inside the bus were some High School boys in blue uniform in the last bench. I was taken quite aback when I found these boys drinking wine in a well paper covered bottle inside the passenger bus. It left me seriously thinking, if there is no prohibition will not such things just become worse and chronic & we’ll have nothing to say because it is not illegal to drink. Leave alone the question of minors; it is never going to work here.
NLTP Act seems to be drawing quite a furore for years and more so lately. The mood seem to swing between three group; the Church, the Govt. and the Laymen. The church for obvious reason will always vouch against the lifting, the common men with their own reason divided between for and against, and the Govt. with ears on both sides seems to be placed at uneasy ease. However, what is fundamental is not the church ethics, govt. economical interest or individual scramble for good wine, but rather the whole notion of life itself; the inevitabilities that is most likely to befall if prohibition is lifted without taking due precautions.Firstly, let’s relook why prohibition came about in the first place? What was the nature and condition of our society before prohibition? For sure, for no nonsense reason would the church waste its time and energy campaigning for so long a year until prohibition was adopted in 1989. What is the guarantee that society would not relapse back to the bad old days if prohibition is lifted? How well does prohibition goes in other states and the states where prohibition does not exist? What is the nature and behavioural pattern of their society? Is it like our society where guns rule the roost or chaos always tends to flare up with little spark? Why are some states like Kerala, Tripura, etc. trying to adopt prohibition?
These are pertinent questions for anybody’s perusal. It is a known fact that before prohibition dawns, gangsternism writ large on the street while UGs rule the jungle. Indeed it was an ‘age of lawlessness’ where crooks and cronies reigns in places like the capital, Dimapur and other district headquarters. Drunkards brag and brawl and street fights were daily occurrence. Than prohibition came and also with the changing nature of UGs coming to the streets, either the street bosses were eliminated or tamed, though of course insanity griped the UGs killing each other; the ‘age of extreme’ was introduced and that could be the effect of pilferage wine due to lax implementation of the Act.
Analysing from my own intercourse & association with friends of this generation that I came across thus far, 75% of them casually touch wine when available or during occasions, 10% are habitual and 15% are teetotallers. This 75% won’t care for wine if it is not available but the other 10% will drink by any means.
Revenue or no revenue, good wine or bad wine is not the most important factor of understanding prohibition. What is most important is, will wine do good to the already fragmented social health of our people especially at this juncture when insanity of guns & bullet always tend to rear its ugly heads? What will happen when guns got mixed up with open wine? Gujarat is a state where prohibition exists but economy is booming, Is it difficult for Nagaland economy to boom without wine? Kerala will loss 8000 crore revenue if prohibition comes, but this gain on one hand is countermined by severe loss in spending on health & social related issues because of alcohol which infact results in no gain at Gross deduction.
Like most tribals, Nagas are indulgent and indolent by nature. Wine will surely be a booster to this indulgence where gluttony and lethargy will get the better of the alcoholics & in the process becomes a social bane to the society. Nagas could become like Todas tribals of Nilgiri hills where menfolk sit, drinks and merry & the womenfolk do all the works with daily wife beating at homes. We may also marvel how the khasis inspite of being the centre where education first spread by virtue of being the colonial capital, it is hard to see how parochial & chauvinist their society has become and wine is sure a factor here. The best manifestation can be seen in university like NEHU.
To lobby against prohibition for good wine is a poor argument and more of gluttony in nature. It is pointless to argue death by bad wine because the so-called good wine is going to kill too as the label itself comes with death tag. There is no good wine and long life, its only good wine and ruined life.
The question of immorality, prostitution, etc because of pilferage wine may exist but lifting prohibition is not going to change that, rather it is only going to get worse with more wine, more revelry & more prostitution. NLTP is unsuccessful doesn’t means it has to be lifted. Steps should be taken to strengthened it & fill the loopholes. It will be far more bearable to see secret sale and bootlegging under fear of the law than see open drunkenness and open debauchery. To break all present cease-fires and start outright war with India soberly will be more bearable than see our society drub in drunkenness and self destruction Even with prohibition, we kills each other so much and slowly sanity seems to be descending after decades of madness. Each day, chaos in the guise of guns threatens to get the better of our society. If gun and wine got mixed than hell will break loose. Lifting prohibition at this juncture will create a situation beyond control which could spiral into major catastrophe. To lift prohibition at this juncture, Nagaland would just become ‘wild, wild East’ with wine, women & weapons. Nagaland for Christ will become Nagaland for wine.
Behavioural pattern of drinking differs from society to society & therefore before comparing ourselves with others it is imperative to know the nature & character of that society. The American society that most people love to compare differs with us by centuries if not by millennium. Perhaps we may think of lifting prohibition once our society becomes as advanced as them, mentally, socially, economically and politically. In American society, their govt. takes care of the children if both the parents are unable to do so or are alcoholics or are harmful to the children. What mechanism does our govt. have in similar situation? Let it be remembered that there are still many counties and townships in USA where prohibition applies including Red Indians tribal reserves areas.
Alcohol wreck havoc in the family & it is the main reason for domestic violence and abuses where women folk and children always remain at the receiving end. In states like erstwhile Andhra Pradesh and west Bengal where wine is cheap & generously available, it has the highest number of crime against women mostly committed under the influence of alcohol. Then comes to places like Delhi, which has the dubious distinction as rape Capital and where chronic racial assault against North East people exist, wine is generously available and cheap. Wine is a sure abetment of all these crimes. Road accidents would become chronic due to drunken drive in the absence of wine detector of which our govt. has neither the means nor resource to implement it.
Wine is a mocker and the source of all evil scheming and debauchery. All unholy things are vigorously talked whenever drinkers gather around the bottle. There is no such thing as drink a peg, take a good sleep and be happy. The way of the wine and more of Nagas’ way is that until and unless one get a kick over, its absolutely difficult to walk away. Wine abets corruption by the simple logic that alcoholic officers will always try to pocket govt. money to fund his bottle, so also the contractors and if it’s just common men, he will resort to diabolical means & even indulge in anti-socials activities to finance his bottle.
If governance is hard at present, it is going to get harder, if politics is dirty, it will get dirtier, if election is messy, it will only get messier, if govt. is corrupt, it is only going to become more corrupt, if there is chaos, it is only going to become more chaotic without prohibition. In state like Kerala, prohibition is in the offing after seeing that alcohol has become a major social evil with lots of marital breakdown, domestic violence, flood of rehabilitation centres by alcoholics and excessive alcohol related ailments. Behind the facet of alcohol is endless woes attached.
The filth of the malt house, the ex-orbitant price of wine and the fear of law impels many especially youngsters from drinking. With wine freely available made more attractive in style and fashion, bars, etc, temptation will become much stronger. Especially the youngsters in the most tumultuous and formative period of life will be introduced early into drinking culture which will adversely affect our social competency as a people in the long run. When it comes to business, preventing minors from drinking won’t be possible if liquor becomes legal and liberally available. Domestic violence, suicides, homicides, accidents, marital breakdown will become rampant. Lifting of prohibition at this fragile juncture will surely pervert Naga cause, and the general alertness towards issues like illegal immigrants, corruption, illegal taxation, etc will be stunted. Naga society is still at transitional stage and has not yet stabilized; wine will pervert this cathartic transition.
Absolute dry is untenable no matter how strong the law, but without certain control, society will just sink. Frankly speaking, it is not prudent to lift prohibition at this juncture least things reversed back to square one but oneday it might have to be lifted in a controlled, disciplined and well measured environment but atleast not until Naga political problem is solved. Now, the talk of the day should rather be how to strengthen the Act, fill the lacunas, but not whether to lift it.
Citing the example of the village I grew up, tradition was still pronounced and animism still a force to reckon with. Wine especially local brew (Zutho) was available at ease. The non-Christian brew and the Christian drinks. It was not quite a sight to behold. Gambling & Drinking and brawling each night were a daily affair. Family, clan bickering because of selling and gambling away lands was common. In 1990s with the strong effort of the student’s body, selling of intoxicants was totally banned and the drunkards strictly penalised even to the extent of ex-communicating and expulsion from the village. The result was phenomenal; the village started producing gazetted officers, respectable citizens, etc. Death by consumption is as good as unheard off now and old brawling rare though ofcourse why the village is not progressing is because of today’s stupid politicking but not because of wine anymore. It’s imminent where the village will sink unto supposing prohibition is lifted.