As the anti-liquor movement in Tamil Nadu grows louder with opposition parties demanding prohibition in the state, Anna Isaac of CNN-IBN visited a de-addiction centre in Chennai and spoke to recovering alcoholics and experts on the real issue at hand and what can be done to tackle alcoholism.
The 46-year-old Ganesh is a recovering alcoholic. He had his first sip of liquor at the age of 15. A teenager’s vice grew into an addiction at 21 as alcohol took over Ganesh’s life.
Speaking to CNN-IBN Ganesh said “21 to 24 it was worst. Those three years I became a very regular drinker. I started starving for it. If I get money, I will go drink. If I have chance I will go drink. Slowly my interest towards everything had gone. I worked in some places – as in charge of the office, office assistant. Because of my drinking I couldn’t hold onto proper jobs for long time”.
But it’s even harder for the families of alcoholics. Take Latha for example…married to an alcoholic who spent his entire salary on liquor. The pressure of raising their daughter and earning a living fell entirely upon her when her husband quit his job and became a slave to the bottle.
According to de-addiction centre officials while Ganesh and Latha’s husband are now sober after admitting themselves into a de-addiction programme. They point to easy access to liquor as one of the main reasons for their alcoholism. So the question is does the solution simply lie in shutting down the state-run liquor store? Many are asking.
Running a de-addiction centre for more than 30 years, Dr Shanthi Ranganathan says there has been a significant increase in the number of alcoholics. But prohibition she says is not the solution. With nearly 7000 state-run liquor stores across Tamil Nadu, Dr Ranganathan says the priority should be to bring down the number of shop. She says following points are the main reasons for growing number of alcoholics.
-Rational and scientific policy based on WHO guidelines required.
-Availability of alcohol should be reduced.
-Number of liquor shops should come down.
-Hours of working to be brought down.
She said “If you ask me the government should have a rational and scientific policy to deal with this issue. As I mentioned, WHO has given appropriate guidelines on these issues. Availability of alcohol should be reduced. The number of shops should come down. It should not be near schools, not be near religious places and not be near residential colonies. The hours of working has to be brought down. It is not an essential commodity”.
While revenue from state-run liquor stores crossed 26,000 Crore rupees in 2014, in contrast, there are only 29 de-addiction centres in Tamil Nadu.All sponsored by the Central government. Experts say instead of demanding total prohibition the real focus needs to be on providing timely help for alcoholics seeking to quit.