Illicit liquor conundrum

Primepost News Desk

The Telangana government is in a piquant situation after it started a campaign to end illicit liquor sales. Its sole objective of saving lives from consumption of cheap locally-produced brew has turned out to be a death curse for addicts in many areas. So far, nearly 40 men and women have died of withdrawal symptoms after being denied of their daily dose of potent brew and hundreds more are being treated at government hospitals in Karimnagar, Nizamabad, Adilabad, Nalgonda, Medak and Mahbubnagar. The worst-hit is Mahbubnagar district where over 200 addicts had been admitted in hospitals. Tuesday proved to be the deadliest when 12 people, five of them women, died of withdrawal symptoms.

Locally known as gudumba, hooch, arrack, etc the illicit brew is a big business in rural areas of the country. Every year, killer brews claim hundreds of lives in villages. In June this year, over 100 people were killed in Mumbai suburbs after consuming illicit liquor, triggering massive protests and calls for a crackdown on the clandestine manufacture and sale of deadly concoctions.

In Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, dozens of poor people, mostly daily workers, fall victim to the cheap liquor every year. While some addicts lose vision or lay paralyzed, some others lose life to their daily habit. No amount of persuasion, education and health warnings would wean the habituated from drinking the toxic brew as long as it was available.

So, the Telangana government has decided to cut off the supplies and strike at their source. With official crackdown on manufacture and sale and arrest of dozens of bootleggers, the menace has come down appreciably. In fact, on Thursday, officials declared Mahbubnagar district gudumba-free. But the number of deaths due to withdrawal symptoms has kept increasing. Many deaths could have been avoided had the government initiated a programme to slowly wean off addicts before drying up their ‘essential’ supply.

Finally, the government may succeed in eliminating illegally distilled (ID) liquor. But the question is can officials prevent ID mafia from reviving their illegal activities in future? In the past, many state governments have tried – and failed –to curb illicit liquor. The Telangana government hopes to eliminate the killer brews once and for all through an ‘affordable’ liquor plan. But will the stuff give the addicts the real kick they crave for out of the government-supplied spirit? A point to ponder.

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