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Young India says cheers as alcohol consumption goes up
Statistical data projects that more and more young Indians are resorting to alcohol these days. Thanks to the growing liberated society, easy spending power and wide availability of brands to choose from.

AS PER WHO’s Global Status Report on Alcohol 2004, India occupies the 150th position among the 184 countries when it comes to alcohol consumption. That may not look so bad but the fact is that more and more people especially the youngsters of both the sexes are taking to alcohol these days.


As Indians are gradually emerging out of the cocoon of an orthodox and closed society to that of a more open and liberated one, statistical data portrays that more and more people specifically the youngsters find drinking no more a taboo.


Around 15 to 20 per cent of Indians consume alcohol and over the past twenty years, the number of drinkers has increased considerably. According to a survey done by The Hindustan Times, an estimated 5 per cent of Indians can be classified as alcoholics which projects that at least five million people in India are addicted to alcohol.


The HT survey also says that 65 per cent of the Indian liquor market is controlled by whiskey manufacturers. The state of Kerala stands first in per capita consumption of liquor at 8.3 litres, followed by Punjab 7.9 litres.


Easy money, easy availability of imported brands and more spending power are some of the reasons that contribute to the high consumption of alcohol.


The Indian market is flooded with foreign brands these days, thanks to the liquor baron of India, Vijay Mallya, whose name occupies a significant position in the global scenario. Son of a famous industrialist Vittal Mallya, Vijay Mallya assumed as the Chairman of the UB (United Breweries) Group in 1983 and took the company to great heights. Today, the group has grown into a multi-national conglomerate of over sixty companies.


Multinational alcohol beverage companies redeploying from shrinking markets in the developed world have identified India as one of the most attractive markets for investment.


The industry, to seize opportunity of the emerging market, has introduced new products such as flavoured and mild alcoholic products, aimed at recruiting nondrinkers, targeted primarily women and young men.


Most of the youth say they initially took to drinking to be at par with their peer groups.


“I was the odd person out in my group. We used to visit discs and parties together, so the best way to enjoy is to take part in each and every activity. And that’s how I started drinking. I am 35 now, married and have a child but I need my glass of drink everyday, I cannot do without it. I had problems in my married life too. I think now my wife has adjusted to my way of life” said Mohit, a businessman in New Delhi.


But there are many others who say they resorted to alcohol as they feel that the intoxicating effect of the drink sways them away from the tensions of day-to-day life.


“I started drinking when I was in my second year of graduation. I was known to be a very good person but since I was going through a bad phase, I wanted to prove everyone wrong and so I took to drinking. Now I drink regularly. But I know my limits,” said a 24-year-old working with a KPO in Delhi.


“I was a very bright student who always excelled in my studies and later on I drew applause for my work from my bosses too. So I could not take it when the lady whom I loved so much ditched me. It seemed like she played with my life and emotions. I started drinking because this was a way I could forget everything. In the process I did hurt my parents too.  But at that point of time it was very difficult for me. I have reformed myself to a great extent now. I am happy today I am married. But, old habits die hard. So I do take a peg or so at times though not on a regular basis,” said a 30-year-old media professional.


The trade papers in recent times have shown a spate of buy-outs of local beverage companies by MNCs. The revenue aims of state governments are contradictory with their health and welfare aims, as they push sales by imposing yearly incremental quotas on production and sales.


Most of the states obtain 15-20 per cent of their revenue from excise on alcohol. This is the second largest source of a states’ exchequer.


Misuse of alcohol has been implicated in over 20 per cent of traumatic brain injuries and 60 per cent of all injuries reporting to emergency rooms. Excessive usage of alcohol has also resulted in deliberate self-harm, high-risk sexual behaviour, HIV infection, tuberculosis, oesophageal cancer, liver disease, duodenal ulcer and many more.


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