Corona With Whiskey, Turning Lives Risky...
When the social media goes all flooded with witticisms as to why drunkards wobble is because they carry on their shoulders, the burden of ramping up the economy; it becomes indispensable to reason out the decision of the State Governments as regards the opening of liquor shops in the wake of the novel Coronavirus pandemic.
On 12.03.2020 COVID was declared a Global Pandemic by the World Health Organisation. The virus outbreak which was first detected in China has affected by large the population in all and about 185 countries.
Not just did countless lives get affected, businesses world-wide are counting the cost of such an epidemic. The COVID shock has been reportedly weighed on a higher and heavier pedestal than even the Great Financial Crisis that hit the world economy in the year 2008 which had paved the way to widespread unemployment and other economic disasters. It is however evident that the triumph in stifling and restraining the virus is only possible at the cost of an economic slowdown caused amidst social distancing and truncated mobility.
Within the myriads of problems facing the economy, it finds its place uncountable reasons evincing it, from the crash of oil crisis with dried oil demands across the world during lockdowns that have kept people home or be it the recorded fall in the industrial production, sales and investment. The Global Economy in fact is expected to drop off, moving head-on towards the risk of the great recession.
Now, as the Pandemic has nabbed the world, it is obvious that India in noway has an elusive shield or a bulletproof jacket that would guard it against the shots of the monstrous virus. The Indian Economy as well is badly hit during this time of crisis. Although during the difficult times when Technology and Telecommunication have come to the rescue of people enabling them to work from home sans risking the lives of their own as well as the public at large with an aim to keep the economy ticking and “As a best-case scenario,” as said by Mr. Viswanathan Rajendran, partner, global management consultant Kearney, “a lot of (large scale particularly) businesses are hoping for a V-shaped economic recovery—a sharp decline, followed by an equally sharp recovery, once restrictions are relaxed” in a country like India, it is irrefutable that bulk of the population are not netizens and most of them depend on small industries or agriculture for livelihood and have been majorly affected.
In India where the outbreak has not spared any of the sectors be it Civil Aviation or MSMEs or be it any other allied sectors; and where, in the near future due to the lengthy disruptions and sink in the economic activities, it is very much expected of India to show a negative GDP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has time and again reiterated the role of prescribed guidelines enforced by the State Governments as an attempt to not just ensure the safety of people against the spread of the virus but also as a step towards exhilarating the economy. Thus, in the times of the Pandemic which has brought to an abrupt standstill, not just Commerce but Lifestyles as well; and where the lock-down has severely dented the revenues of the States, the various cash-starved ministry has raided on to the Value Added Tax from Auto fuels and excise on Liquors to cushion the heavy body blow to their revenues.
Where GST Collections, also finding a place under the sources substantially adding to the takings of the state exchequer, have also been compromised and have witnessed a regrettable fall, the states resorted to the opening of liquor shops and increase sales from petrol and diesel; walking parallel and in adherence to the permissions of Home Ministry as to ease during lock-downs.
Amidst all the atrocities facing the Country, when due to the reduced vehicles on the roads and less pollution from the smoke chimneys of various factories, nature jolted happily; a glimpse of similar delectation was seen on the faces of drunkards when the Government of Delhi, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and many more directed the opening of liquor shops w.e.f 04.05.2020.
Taxes on liquor constitute a chief patron towards the revenue of as many as 36 Indian States and Federal Territories that are in the current scenario rifled of their funds. States have levied ‘Special Corona Fee’ on liquors of about 70% in some areas, meanwhile, the State of West Bengal has booked it at 30% where States like Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan has hinted hikes by 75%. This would definitely screen them against dried finances but the question still remains as to how viable is the option at the cost of jeopardizing public health and safety?
Liquor Shops were ordered to open in the non-containment zones from 12 to 6 pm. However, a large number of such stores opened also in orange and red zones, not even sparing the containment zone per se. There were seen massive ques outside the liquor shops that projected obtrude derision towards the lockdown measures and of all that we have achieved fighting the COVID curve until lockdown 2.0. Seemingly, it is all a booze economy we are heading towards.
Although it is seen that the revenues of U.P. were bolstered by a sale of Rs. 100 crore or Maharashtra where the growth of revenue from the sale of liquors accounted for Rs. 11 crore or be it the State of Karnataka with a record of more than 45 crores; the unmanageable ques and social distancing have manifested a growth of 3000 more COVID Cases in just 24 hrs with on and about 195 casualties. Isn’t it heart-melting? Is it anyway adding to our fight against the outbreak? Those favoring the contention of revenue towards States, need to have a detailed look at these closed figures.
The onus of the mighty step taken during this period lies solely in the States. Along with the norms of social distancing being disregarded openly and where it is sure that the decision would rewind the fight of the entire country against the virus outbreak setting it back; the lockdown that was put on crimes has surely been vented with the crime graph going up drastically. Where measures of self-quarantine by people had reduced the crime rate by 75%, the one decision has led to catastrophe and an exponential rise in murder, rape, and other heinous crimes.
While the end of India’s own version of “ban” witnessed thousands of men rejoicing on streets after buying alcohol, the women who had already faced violence is expected to suffer more with the action of the government during lockdown 3.0. Although, with the corona curve rising up, the governments have resorted to the online delivery of stipulated quantities of alcohol that could help avert a potential health crisis. Even Madras High Court ordered the shutdown of TARMAC liquor shops that are run by the State and permitted only the online transaction of the same. Yet, we see that peace of the families and safety of women has been compromised, and even when the online sale would help maintain social distancing it would not reduce cases of violence on women and children induced by substance abuse. It was reported by a social activist and Director of the Centre for Social Research (CSR), Dr. Ranjana Kumari, in her own words, that, “According to the government’s own National Family Health Survey data, there is a direct link between alcohol use and violence by men. So certainly it will escalate. Already there are two times more cases of domestic violence reported to the National Commission for Women.” In India, it is not new for women to face aggression due to alcoholism.
Lastly, I would like to focus on the very mantra we have followed since Lockdown phase 1; that is, ‘Jaan hai to jahaan hai‘ and conclude with the fact that neither does not-drinking bullies the ‘Jaan‘ nor does drinking proffers 'Jahaan'. The idea of opening up wine shops is in no way novel, and it is of essence that the government broods over other ways to revive the economy.