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Alcohol ke side-effects
Screamed a headline – "India's roadside alcohol ban deals $10 billion blow to bars!"

This is the season of bans. The more, the merrier! Hopping on to the band wagon, our Supreme Court recently banned serving of alcohol within 500 meters of all the national and state highways. The diktat of the Court was meant to reduce deaths and accidents on the highways due to drunk driving. The objective was noble, but such bans have never worked in Europe or America.

It is so easy to circumvent this stricture and give rise to flourishing underground business and crime. Accidents and deaths do not significantly reduce.

I have seen wine & beer being served in teapots, and the billing being done as beverages. 'Bloody Mary' being served as 'Virgin Mary' and billed as tomato juice!

In Europe, what has reduced deaths and accidents on highways, is strict radar monitoring of over-speeding, hovering police helicopters, prompt interception and severe unavoidable salutary punishment. No one is spared. There were unexpected balloon tests along the way, and severe consequences, if the driver failed the test.

Now generally, when a couple or a group go out driving, it is decided in advance who will drive. And that person abstains. Parallel to punishment, nationwide public education on TV and other forums, on the virtues of abstinence/moderation and ill-effects on the person, family and the society are persuasively carried out.

After the Supreme Court came out with its ban on sale of alcohol along the highways, the states put on their thinking caps. And they arrived at a brilliant jugaad solution. I had never realised how simple it was, to side step the apex court's orders. They just de-notified the highway stretches in their states as municipal roads. Now they did not come under the Central authority, but were to be to be maintained by the local municipality or the metropolitan authority.

This way, the concerns for deaths and accidents due to drunken driving were overlooked. But the state will save thousands of businesses from closing down, along the highways. Thousands of jobs will be saved and the government will not lose excise on the sale of liquor.

Not versed with the niceties of the Constitution and the technicalities of law: Is this not contempt of court? Particularly, when governments spurn the highest court of the land?

Someone said, "It is easy to decide between a Right and a Wrong. But very difficult to decide between two Rights!" The Court is bothered about saving life and limb on the highways, due to drunken driving. The states are bothered about saving the businesses, jobs and revenue, if the ban of selling alcohol along highways is implemented.

Sudden total bans create widespread unforeseen (or purposely ignored) problems, which can have greater impact on unsuspecting stakeholders, also. Perhaps a group of experts and various stakeholders should study the problem in its totality, and arrive at an optimum solution: In a spirit of co-operation and not as adversaries!

I wonder, how the Supreme Court will respond to the manner in which the states are hoodwinking its order! What next?

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