The government is mulling over enforcing a stringent executive order to control production, sale and distribution of alcohol, assuming liquor consumption is giving rise to cases of domestic violence and crime such as rape, besides health-related problems.
A responsible government should not waver from introducing tough measures to improve the well-being of its citizens and reduce incidents of violence and crime. But the government’s latest move has raised a few eyebrows, as it aims to push legal manufacturers of alcoholic beverage and operators of restaurants, bars and hotels to the verge of collapse, without proposing appropriate measures to penalise producers and distributors of illicit liquor.
The study conducted in slums of Kathmandu valley showed that only 22.6 per cent of squatters consumed alcoholic beverages, such as beer, whisky and vodka, manufactured by licensed firms. A big chunk of these urban poor consumed illegally-made liquor known as raksi (20.8 per cent), followed by rice or millet homebrews (13.7 per cent) and homemade alcoholic beverages such aschhyang (12.5 per cent). Others consumed a mix of both legal and illicitliquors.
“The government should introduce measures to reduce the potential harm associated with drinking among vulnerable groups that consume cheap and easily accessible (illicit) liquor, as it can cause severe health hazards,” said Dr Pukar Chandra Shrestha.
Hence, alcohol content in such drinks fluctuates all the time, raising chances of methanol poisoning. Recently, 45 people, including six Nepalis, died in Malaysia because of methanol poisoning. But the executive order prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs, which has been forwarded to the Cabinet for approval, is silent on taking action against producers and distributors of illicit liquor, who are out of the tax net.
The new executive order prepared by the home ministry proposes to allow hotels, lodges, bars and restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages between 5:00 pm and 10:00 pm. It also seeks to prevent hotels, resorts, lodges, bars and restaurants from serving alcoholic beverages outdoors. The executive order also aims to bar manufacturers of alcoholic beverages from sponsoring sporting events, concerts and other public events, and promoting their programmes in the media.
Banning cigarette advertisements
These measures will squeeze the business of licensed establishments, while giving rise to production and sale of illicit liquor, according to liquor industry experts. Earlier, the government had tried to reduce the number of smokers by banning cigarette advertisements. “Did the policy work? No,” said KC. “This is because such measures don’t work unless they are supported by other policies.”
The government should launch awareness campaigns on safe and responsible drinking to discipline those who are facing drinking problems rather than enforce a blanket regulation that punishes everyone, said Dr Shrestha. He added, “A harsh unexpected action can upset people.” The study conducted among squatters of Kathmandu valley also showed that the number of drinkers dropped with “increase in education”.