Q. Why is this in news?
- At least 112 people have died in three districts of Punjab after consuming spurious liquor in Ludhiana.
- Illicit liquor deaths have been the cause of worry in recent months.
Q. What is Illicit Liquor or Hooch?
• Alcoholic beverages are made by fermentation of sugary and starchy substances, followed by distillation to increase alcohol concentration. The active ingredient in them is ethyl alcohol or ethanol.
• Adulteration: While illicit alcohol is produced under unregulated circumstances and is often adulterated with chemicals like methanol, organo-phosphorus compounds and ethanol to save costs.
Q Why is this toxic often and cause death?
- Methyl alcohol (methanol) is generally used for furniture polish and is a commonly used adulterant because of its appearance and a similar taste to ethyl alcohol and its easy availability.
- Toxicity often comes from drinking methanol which changes to formic acid inside the body, which results in blindness, tissue damage or death.
Q. What are Constitution Provisions for liquor?
• Article 47: State shall endeavour for the prohibition of the consumption of intoxicating drinks and of drugs except for medicinal purposes.
• Article 21 (Right to life and liberty): Consumption of liquor leads to degradation of human dignity.
• Article 38: Function of the Republic is to secure socioeconomic justice.
Q. What is legal status for same?
Alcohol prohibition is a state subject with each state having full control of alcohol legislation, state excise rates and the organization of production and sale of alcohol.
Q. What might be Reasons for Repeated Incidents?
- Poor governance to detect production and movement of illicit liquor.
- Corruption nexus of police-administration-bootleggers.
- Challenge in coordinating with different state agencies to catch the inter-state gangs.
- Distorted Policies:
- Lack of affordable liquor for the poor due to revenue-maximizing liquor policy i.e. high taxes and excise rates.
- Prohibition in many states which encourages smuggling.
- Price of illicit liquor is very low due to its low-cost production and no taxation.
- Demand-supply gap: For example, Odisha government recently alerted Collectors against spurious liquor sale.
- Patients and relatives are hesitant in disclosing the real facts about the consumption of liquor due to its corollary like fear of police action.
- Delay in providing antidote (ethyl alcohol) at the initial stage leads to more casualties.
- Lack of education and unawareness about the evil effects of illicit liquor.
- Present laws for prohibition are very liberal, lenient and the quantum of punishment is very minor in most of the states.
Q. What are Impacts of Sale and Consumption of Illicit Liquor?
- Health tragedies: Blindness and deaths in extreme cases.
- The vicious cycle of Poverty: Families from lowest socio-economic strata lose the sole breadwinner.
- Sale of liquor through unauthorised outlets disturbs public peace and order.
- Loss of revenue for state government.
Q. What are some possible solutions?
- Break corrupt nexus: Steps should be taken to break the nexus between Police and bootleggers must be taken.
- Enhance investigative capabilities of law enforcement agencies: A speedy and effective mechanism to investigate such cases should be placed.
- The clarity in rules and regulations needed: State Government should frame new specific Rules, particularly for manufacture, transport, import of methyl alcohol rules and classify it as ‘poison’.
- Elevating the standards of literacy in slum areas and rehabilitation of addicts/offenders.
- Awareness through entertainment mediums should be spread among people.
- Capacities of the health system should be upgraded:
- Proper supply of antidotes (Ethyl alcohol, sodium bicarbonate and fomepizole) and hemodialysis should be ensured.
- Instruments for diagnosis to the hospitals should be ensured and doctors must be trained.
- Central government must constitute commission: Though this subject matter comes under the jurisdiction of states, the central government must constitute a commission to look into the issue and issue some model suggestive guidelines to states to deal with it.