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Op-Ed

The Speaking Mirror: Title- Beyond Economics

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By EMN Updated: Sep 22, 2014 11:14 pm
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[dropcap]N[/dropcap]agaland Liquor Total Prohibition (NLTP) Act was first implemented the year I was born. Ironically, my father and some other men in my family have been alcoholics since then and this story is a common one among my peers.
Having lived with alcoholics in the house and seeing how our society has functioned under the NLTP Act, I am not convinced of the change or deterrence the law has brought or can bring to a person’s drinking habits. Some may have misplaced the debate of lifting this prohibition by simply confining it only to the generation of revenues from the production for a deficit running government without looking into the prevailing ill-effects of it in our society and the ways to curb it. More than the economics involved in the lifting of this ban, one must not forget we now live in an era where individuals are becoming more aware of the ‘self’ within a state and thus, pushing the Act might only provoke its citizens to stand up and question the infringement of their personal choices and not necessarily bow to the prescribed norms. Imposition of laws and rules may not result in good behavior because natural tendency in many is to retaliate and we may only find ourselves in a chaos of the state being the enemy of the citizens. Instead, creating serious awareness and educating the people of the consequences of alcohol may offer better chances of influencing the personal choice of a person.With the debate running, maybe it’s time to question the passivity of the State and churches’ initiatives to rehabilitate the ones already severely affected by alcohol. What are the programs or institutions that have been set up as part of their effort in curbing the alcohol menace that has so deeply affected our society?
An apt explanation of our situation today is as someone had once cited- “Imagine 2 cities A and B. In city A, town people notice that every few weeks a house catches fire so they create a fire department- a group of professionals with preposition fire fighting equipment and special expertise. In city B , town leaders do not create a fire department. When there’s a fire, they hurriedly cobble together some people and equipments to fight it.” We are like city B, particularly slow to build institutions to combat long running problems. Excessive drinking being an intrinsic problem needs to be addressed but not by a law with no teeth. The 25 years have shown it’s weakness so now, experimenting a lift in the ban to see if the potential benefits claimed, appears to be a more beneficial way out than the unhealthy illegal market that exists. Stringent measures can be taken after lifting like setting timings and days for the shops to open, post forces at appropriate vicinities to keep a check on problems stirred by the people in their inebriated state etc. . Also, a cell can be started to specifically monitor the problem of alcoholism in the state and therein work out ways to curb excess consumptions. But recruiting various experts and not just anyone available would definitely yield better results. This will help the state in knowing the progress rather than mere health and road accident statistics and it will also guide them to take appropriate steps in this direction.
Drinking indulgence cannot be stopped overnight nor can a law stop a person from drinking if he chooses to. But certainly, emphasis on spreading awareness and education on alcoholism and its ills might have a more positive effect in influencing an individual’s choice. Alcoholism is a disease that affects a person physically, mentally and spiritually. Our common attitude of secluding such people will only lead to aggravating their dependence on it. The state and the church should lead in helping the already affected to come out of their plight and the society should follow suit by taking up the social responsibility of overcoming the condemning attitude towards alcoholics. Professional help like counsellors, psychiatrists, psychologists would help a great deal therefore, the church and state should recruit or look into training such people and not only press for a law which we know is bound to fail. The social responsibility to make these sessions accepted as healthy remedy without being too quick to condemn, judge or seclude such people lies in us.
The NLTP act has not worked as it should have and it has no certainty that it will work out well this time round. As long as there is demand, there will be supply. Hence, weighing the cost-benefit ratio and the authorities taking more pragmatic steps in curbing the problem rather than adding just another law in the book would be a better way out. Change is good. Why not try?

M. Angami
Forest Colony, Kohima

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By EMN Updated: Sep 22, 2014 11:14:30 pm