We are currently touring TamilNadu as part of our ShikshaDaan Yatra and we visited an amazing school called KalaiMagal High school at Sivakasi. It has nearly 8000 students, 300 teachers and 5 principals. It’s catering to several small villages around Sivakasi. We attended an event called “gift of education” which was being conducted by our partner NGO Udavum Ullangal. Udavum Ullangal helps children from very poor families to continue their education by giving scholarships. They also conduct some mentoring sessions and personality development sessions for these children and have made a difference to nearly 20000 children in the 16 years that they have been in existence.
At this event, what was telling was, only mothers seem to have accompanied their children … Fathers were mostly missing. We met a girl who was married off after her 12th to a relative and had to return to her mother’s home within a year because her husband was an alcoholic. She is planning on studying further and is trying to support herself. Variations of this story were heard right through the event. Everywhere in TamilNadu, we find “new and improved” Tasmac bars. I don’t have to tell you – it’s the TN government run bars…. Apparently the best performing department in the TN government who is exceeding all targets. We were deeply pained to hear that the state government is using the Tasmac bars to earn more – where is this headed ? The demographic dividend of TamilNadu atleast is being washed down peg after peg at a Tasmac bar :(:(.
Just two days back we have 100+ people dying in Mumbai due to consuming poisonous hooch….
We are part of a cycling group in Gurgaon and while we haven’t been cycling regularly for a couple of years, even in 2010-11 when we were regular, the “theka” would be open at 5.30 am and 6 am but the tea shop was open much later :(. The office building where I worked had a “wine” shop just as you exit the office. Great way to help people grab a drink everyday.
Alcohol and drugs are depleting our demographic dividend faster than any other disease. The rave parties that are busted every now and then are more proof of this. The ones left behind aren’t getting the right education nor skills … It’s a grim picture. We need to do something urgently to tackle these two dangers. I also think, this is the new war… Weapons are expensive, get the country’s youth addicted to drugs and/or alcohol and slow them down, finish off generations.
I have some suggestions which I hope will be looked at and hopefully readers will add many many more on this topic.
1. Just lift and shift the drug laws of Singapore and implement in India. If someone wants to enjoy drugs, they can do so at their own peril and expense outside the country. This will also clean up the drug dens in tourist places like McLeodganj, Manali, Goa and many other places.
2. In schools, every year there should be an excursion to a drug rehabilitation centre and movies shown about alcoholics and smokers. Seeing someone writhing in pain from withdrawal symptoms is a sure shot way of getting children to swear off the stuff. I remember seeing these types of movies on Doordarshan when I was in school and they killed whatever curiosity I might have had.
3. Hang the drug peddlers – no questions asked. Politicians that have helped the drug cartels or are running them (yes, they are) – hang them too. What has happened to Punjab is unforgivable. A whole generation has been lost :(.
4. Restrict the hours that a wine shop can be open and no license to be provided to open them near colleges, offices or places of worship. They can be part of a shopping complex or inside a supermarket.
5. Ban the advertisements that have the same name as an alcoholic product. Bagpiper soda is cute but no one drinks the soda alone.
6. Crackdown on all the country-liquor (hooch) production units – ensure they follow all the distilling rules and shut them down if they refuse.
7. If someone gets drunk in a bar and is allowed to drive – arrest the owner of the bar. If the instance is repeated, cancel the bar’s license. It’s an individual’s choice to get drunk, but the society pays a price when they drink and drive. Make the society accountable too – the barman will know which customer is drunk, let them hail a cab for him/her.
8. An occasional drink is not the issue, alcoholism is. Alcoholics destroy families. Create more support groups and rehab centres to bring back the alcoholics. I fear that alcoholism is more common in the armed forces than it is admitted to…. Help is needed there.
There is a saying in Tamil “kudi kudiyai kedukkum” – “drinking will destroy the family”. Excessive alcohol and drugs are destroying our Indian family – especially the young.
Declare war on drugs and alcohol, make India drug-free like Singapore. I hope our Incredible India campaign’s tag line someday will be “India is the drug, get addicted. Awaken your spirits, as you drink in Incredible India”.
P.s – Just as I posted this note, I found this disturbing article in the newspaper No checks on underage drinking in Bangalore. We need to act swiftly.
June 29, 2015 – pasting the picture with comments received on Facebook.