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Soon, Devil's Own Country
January 2, 2015
Kerala state in India has been touted as ‘God’s Own Country’ in tourist brochures. Unfortunately, the transformation doesn’t take long, from heaven to hell. Prohibit individual choice and in no time you have you have government servants turning into satanic masters. The unholy decision of the Kerala government to introduce prohibition in the state is difficult to comprehend. Many articles have been written condemning the imposition. Nearly all of them, though, argue against prohibition based on the impracticality of it. Economically it will be a disaster; you are foregoing a revenue of over Rs.8,000 crore a year and actually increasing spending on the extra state machinery required to enforce this act. They also point out that implementation-wise, it will be a nightmare. Liquor will flow, but through prohibition-protected channels. Most unpardonable of all, it will make furtive criminals of ordinary, peace-loving citizens and a monstrous mafia of petty criminals. Numerous examples are pointed out in history about the failure and futility of such attempts. Which are all true, but besides the point.
The only valid point is this; prohibition is a flagrant violation of individual rights. An individual has a right to consume what he has earned. In whatever form; liquid, solid, gaseous. He may imbibe the choicest or cheapest of liquor, in thimble-fulls or mug-fulls. It’s only when he violates the rights of another, while inebriated, that the government can rightfully enter the scene. Of course, government never shies away from trampling on individual rights under the guise of ‘social good.’ And they do have enough choral support from a motley crowd of misguided do-gooders, women-vote harvesters, or plain happiness-haters. Husbands who beat-up wives under the influence of alcohol, fathers who take away food from their children’s mouths, or drunken drivers mowing down people are all excuses to encroach piously on individual rights. Citing people who lose control on consumption of intoxicants as a reason for prohibition is as untenable as banning money because some consider it the root of all evil. There will always be violent, mean, thoughtless husbands and fathers. But most politicians and some citizens never learn; they demonstrate Einstein’s definition of insanity: repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting different results.
Every citizen should staunchly adhere to the belief in individual freedom. Even if she detests alcohol, she has no right to impose her likes and dislikes on others. Pressurising the government to pass laws that make others live according to your personal predilections is a losing game. One day the behemoth state will smother you too. Remember, the government is not your hostel warden, not your teacher, nor, god forbid, your parent. Let us ponder on a strange irony. Education is supposed to liberate you, make you self-sufficient, and capable of handling life. All governments and citizens emphasise this maxim. Now, God’s own country is lauded as the 100% literate state. If citizens of that enlightened state can’t be trusted to make choices regarding their lifestyle, then who can be? Cheers, to the cheerless lot.