‘O you who believe! Intoxicants, gambling, and Al-Ansab and Al-Azlam (arrows for seeking luck or making decision) are an abomination of Shaitan’s handiwork, so avoid that in order that you may be successful.’
The recent news that the government is planning to open many liquor shops in Kashmir has drawn furious reactions from people in Kashmir. From an Islamic point of view, it is mentioned both in the holy Quran and in the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that alcohol is a great sin and is haram (forbidden). In secular matters, too, alcohol has a host of ill effects. Alcohol is one of the leading factors of both social and health problems. According to a recent study published by the World Health Organisation (WHO), nearly 5.1% of the global burden of disease is attributed to alcohol consumption, and it causes nearly 3.3 million deaths every year. In India, it has created more social evils than health hazards. Only four states – Bihar, Gujarat, Mizoram and Nagaland – and one union territory of Lakshadweep have prohibited sale and consumption of alcohol.
Alcohol consumption and health issues
The first and foremost effect of alcoholic consumption is deterioration in health. Excessive alcohol consumption leads to liver cirrhosis, gastritis, skeletal muscle weakness, neurological complications such as blurred vision, impaired memory and slower reaction times, and psychiatric complications such as personality disorders, risk-taking behaviours and increased risk for suicide. Gururaj in his study concluded that increase in alcohol consumption in India has heightened hospital admission rates up to 20% to 30%. Recent data of WHO shows 12% deaths caused by liver cancer attributed to alcohol consumption. The National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16 found the prevalence of AUDs (Alcohol Use Disorder) to be 9% in adult men. WHO through its Global Health Observatory Data Repository mentions that in India, the Alcohol-Attributed Fraction (AAF) of all-cause deaths was 5.4% and around 62.9% of all deaths due to liver cirrhosis were attributed to alcohol use. In 2012, 33.1% of all road accident deaths in India were attributed to drunk driving.
Social and economic consequences
Alcohol consumption not only harms the individual who drinks but also families, community, and the whole society. Alcohol is a major contributing factor in crime, domestic violence, broken families, child abuse, anti-social behaviour, and strained relationships. Gayathri Vijayalakshmi in her study found that alcohol abuse contributed to 84% of violent acts. Alcohol doubles the risk of domestic violence in the family. In another study by Gururaj, he found that 23.3% of alcohol users physically abused their spouse, and alcohol users abuse emotionally their spouse 2.5 times more than the non-users. Markowitz mentions alcohol consumption as a significant cause of domestic violence. In India, lakhs of women and children regularly face physical, emotional, psychological as well as sexual abuse because of the abuser ebing under the influence of alcohol. The increasing numbers of rapes in India are also related to increasing alcohol consumption; it has been found that the majority of rapists were intoxicated while committing the crime. There is no exact data in India that can show how alcohol consumption has created havoc in society, but individual studies, as well as the work of some NGOs, has clearly shown that the effect is no less than calamitous.
Alcohol consumption also drains a family’s income. There have been cases when people dependent on alcohol have sold their property, assets and taken loans to get their regular dose of alcohol. This financial burden falls disproportionately upon families belonging to the lower and lower middle class. Benegal, Velaydan, and Jain mentioned in their study, “The social costs of alcoholism”, that alcohol-dependent persons spent more money than they earned and were forced to take loans to meet their alcoholic expenses. They further mentioned that on average 12.2 working days were lost due to alcoholism and 60% of families of alcoholics were economically supported by income from other family members.
Our Kashmiri society is so far free of this vicious liquor culture but if the government goes ahead with its plans to promote consumption of alcohol, the day is not far when we will see our hospitals full of alcoholics, and social evils spreading like Covid-19. Crimes like rapes, molestation, and domestic violence will become widespread. We are already facing a lot of problems due to drug addiction among our youth. Let’s stand against any plan to introduce liquor culture in Kashmir and save ourselves from this degeneration.
The writer is a research scholar at Department of Sociology, Aligarh Muslim University. firstname.lastname@example.org