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The Indian Liquor Industry Prohibition Story


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To counter these allegations, the government quoted the findings of a survey report made by the Chandigarh-based Institute of Development and Communications. Interviewing 6,000 people in six districts, the study concluded that 58% of the alcoholics had kicked the habit following prohibition. The study claimed that liquor consumption in Haryana had come down by 67% .[4]

The fact that prohibition did not seem to have completely succeeded in any state strengthened the beliefs of prohibition's critics that it was practically impossible to implement prohibition. Analysts claimed that politicians had used prohibition only as a means to garner popularity and votes.


The efficacy of prohibition to curb alcohol consumption became questionable when it became known that the availability of alcohol actually increased in Haryana and AP after prohibition, albeit at higher prices. The experiences with prohibition all over the world prove that it is extremely difficult to make it a success. These experiments with prohibition raised some important questions: was it possible to police the morals of society? Since alcohol consumption was an inseparable part of human life, could it be controlled?

Critics claim that prohibition led to nothing but an increase in organized crime, illicit distillation, deaths from spurious liquor, and widespread defiance of the law. Prohibiting liquor consumption simply created networks of smugglers and home brewers who encouraged people to drink even more than when alcohol was legal. Also, any prohibition exercise invariably ends up depriving those drinkers who do not form the section of society most troubled by alcohol related problems.

The poor people continued to get their supply of country-made liquor while the middle and upper class people were unable to get IMFL. This negated the very purpose of prohibition as the poor continued to be affected by alcoholism. According to analysts, "In most Indian rural households, the man typically controlled the family's entire purse. And in far too many rural families, men divert scarce cash to liquor, depriving their womenfolk and children of money, of better food, education, or anything else. Many sink into debt, dragging their families down with them. So prohibition is not just a morality-versus-liberty issue, it also a civil rights issue for women and children."

Sociologists claim that it is impossible to make anyone stop drinking alcohol, especially by force. Until and unless a person is willing to give up alcohol, he would find means to obtain alcoholic drink. This explains why after the imposition of prohibition, the business quickly passed on to illegal operators. This is further substantiated by the fact that the US liquor business shifted back to the corporate sector gradually after prohibition was lifted.

Supporters of prohibition however said that all these arguments did not hold good. They felt that prohibition was justified in the light of the plight of millions of families suffering the evils of alcoholism. Analysts reported that domestic violence in Haryana and Andhra Pradesh (drunk men reportedly beating their wives) had declined significantly after prohibition. The supporters of prohibition were of the view that liquor was freely available and consumed by many in dry states only because of regulatory and policing lapses.






[4] An interesting side effect of the imposition of prohibition in Haryana was the fact that many poor families were able to earn money through illegal liquor trading. According to reports, after one year of prohibition, many families in villages near Haryana had built houses and the consumption of food, clothes, transistors, wristwatches etc. in the area had gone up.

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