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By pharmacological definition, alcohol is a drug and may be classified as a sedative, tranquilizer, hypnotic, or anesthetic, depending upon the quantity consumed. Alcohol has been consumed in


By pharmacological definition, alcohol is a drug and may be classified as a sedative, tranquilizer, hypnotic, or anesthetic, depending upon the quantity consumed. Alcohol has been consumed in human civilizations throughout recorded history, and people have debated the benefits and drawbacks of alcohol. Although moderate drinking appears to be beneficial for the heart and circulatory system and may help prevent type 2 diabetes and gallstones, heavy drinking is, sadly, a significant contributor to avoidable mortality in most developed nations with a wide range of physiological and social effects. It has been linked to 40% of violent crimes, 15% of drownings, and one in seven fatal accidents on the road. Despite this, alcohol usage appears to be on the rise. At least 10,000,000,000 individuals drink alcohol frequently worldwide, according to estimates from the World Health Report Yet, as globalization has progressed, alcohol usage and acceptability have risen as well, leading to major consequences today. So, it is imperative to reduce the demand for alcohol, both legal and illegal, since this might otherwise will harm people’s health, their families, and society. 


 “Alcohol for Human Use” is included as a state subject matter in State List item 51. Hence, there are different alcohol laws, bylaws, and restrictions in each state. Due to this, each state has a separate legal drinking age, alcohol taxes, and licensing requirements. 

Article 47 of the Directive Principles instructs States to pursue a prohibition on the use of dangerous substances and alcoholic beverages other than for therapeutic purposes.

India has a long history of experimenting with various alcohol regulations, from outright prohibition to restricted alcohol sales to the gradual shutdown of the booze industry. Throughout the period before independence, several states had alcohol prohibitions. Some state administrations lifted the ban shortly after India attained independence. As alcohol makes a sizable contribution to the exchequer, prohibiting it has never been decided.

Bihar along with Gujarat, Nagaland, Mizoram, and Lakshadweep’s Union Territory all have a complete prohibition in effect. Numerous states formerly had prohibition laws as well, but they were later abolished after a specified amount of time. The state of Madras had enacted complete prohibition. In 1952, Madras state underwent total prohibition under the government of Chief Minister C. Rajagopalachari. When Andhra Pradesh was made a state in 1994, Chief Minister NT Rama Rao reintroduced the prohibition legislation which was lifted by the administration of N Chandrababu Naidu in 1997.  Even after it was separated from Madras State, Tamil Nadu continued to practise blanket prohibition until M Karunanidhi’s DMK administration revoked it in 1971. Yet in 1974, the same administration enacted prohibition. The AIADMK administration under MG Ramachandran once more removed prohibition in 1981.


  • The Bihar Legislative Assembly passed the Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act 2016, on December 26, 2015 outlaws the production, bottling, distribution, transportation, accumulation, purchase, sale, and use of all forms of alcoholic intoxicants, including bhang and medications laced with alcohol imposing severe penalties, including the imprisonment and death penalty, on anyone who produces or trade in illicit alcohol.
  • The Bombay State experienced prohibition from 1948 to 1950 and again starting in 1958. Since the split of the Bombay State into the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra on May 1, 1960, Gujarat follows the Bombay Prohibition Act (Gujarat Amendment Act) of 1949 ( imposing the death penalty for making and selling homemade alcohol that causes deaths), although Maharashtra has a licencing system that requires sellers and dealers to have licences.
  • Manipur, Mizoram, and Nagaland are referred to as “dry states” since there is a complete prohibition on the sale and use of alcohol in these three states. Nagaland was the first to enact a ban in 1989 (Nagaland Liquor Complete Prohibition Act). The Mizoram Liquor Complete Prohibition Act was passed in 1995, making the State of Mizoram “dry”. For the state to generate job opportunities, the government granted concessions in 2007 to promote wine production for export. Prohibition was demanded in Manipur by several clandestine armed groups and women’s organisations. In 1991, it came into effect but accompanied relaxations on the five hill districts to increase government revenue by ₹ 50 crores annually.
  • The only union territory that forbids the transporting, possessing, manufacturing, or consumption of alcohol or any other intoxicating substances is Lakshadweep. Only on the island of Bangaram is consumption permitted.

The selling of alcohol is forbidden on certain days in particular. Every state in India is required to observe a DRY DAY on recognised National Holidays, as well as other cultural or political observances.


The imposition of a ban and the demand for the commodity is not directly proportional, and this existing demand is satisfied by an accentuated dirty business of bootlegging and contraband. The government officials jeopardize their responsibility by implicitly profiting from the liquor distilleries and trade.

To ensure the employment of people previously engaged in liquor stores the government-sanctioned feasibility to facilitate the conversion of ‘thekas’ into milk booths, reminds us of the scene from Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange where the protagonist, Alex, holds a glass of milk and says, “The Korova milkbar sold milk-plus (laced with drugs)… which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence.”

Perhaps Gujarat’s worst-kept secret is its failure in curbing alcohol consumption despite its prohibition, accompanied by a single-handed loss of  10,000 crores annually worth of taxes. Bootleggers facilitate the timely delivery of booze, alike pizza. Liquor flows in from the neighbouring states, and brings with it corruption that colours the police and other government officials. Out of 80,000 prohibition cases that were registered from 1999 to 2009, only 9% were convicted. 

In Bombay, the prohibition in the 60s didn’t curb the locally brewed cheap liquor, colloquially known as hooch or moonshine, served in the living rooms of houses which became infamous as aunties’ bars. Thus the booming contraband business inevitably led to a thriving black market.

The idea of prohibition is short-sighted in nature which can only ‘curb’ the symptoms, but not the disease. Linking domestic abuse with accelerated liquor consumption, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2005-06 reported that 51% and 74% of the men in Bihar and Gujarat respectively thought they are justified in torturing their wives.  With the existing loss of INR 4000 crores worth of annual taxes, Bihar with its illegal arms manufacturing cottage industry, flourishes under the patronage of political parties; who’s to say the moonshine trading will not meet the same fate?


India does not have a nationwide alcohol policy to help organize national policy grading, investigation and monitoring. This should be done by consensus states, limiting their role in conducting research, proposing new scientific policy evidence, and enforcing alcohol control laws.   Exorbitant tax rates greatly reduce consumption and generate revenue for the government. The proceeds will be used not only to improve enforcement and curb Hooch brewing, but also to drive reform action by opening alcohol and other drug cessation centres (AA or Alcoholics Anonymous), raising community awareness, and improving adult education overall can be used. Laws are most effective when they are reformative and non-retributive. People’s thinking cannot be changed overnight. It just makes it more expensive for people to make mistakes and learn their preferences through trial and error. 


Alcohol is part of many people’s lives and a source of livelihood for our country. A blanket alcohol boycott is an irrational move for governments and individuals. Regulations are needed to prevent the production, distribution and consumption of dangerous or excessive liquor. But our society needs a process of acceptance. Even if you don’t drink, you should have some respect for other people’s choices. Appropriate legislation and tax guidelines could lead to stable legalization. The clever and rational regulation of the consumption and trade of liquor will also reduce alcohol-related crime in our country. 

Author(s) Name: Kasturi Bhowmick (University of Calcutta)