At a time when alcohol-related deaths are on the rise, the suggestion of Swami Agnivesh to ban alcohol sale in India could prove to be the perfect elixir for the problem. Alarmingly, the number of alcohol-related deaths has witnessed a sharp rise of nearly 21% in 2012 over the corresponding period last year.
Although consuming alcohol might have become a part of the culture yet the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data revealed some mind-blowing facts. In the last five years, barring 2011, there has been a continual rise in the total number of alcohol-related deaths. During the period ranging from 2008 to 2012, this figure saw a steep rise of 27% from the level of 4308 to 5478. A massive increase of 21% was alone witnessed in 2012 when death figure zoomed to 5478 as against 4547 cases registered in 2011.
Likewise, WHO Global status report (released in 2011) on alcohol and health stated, “The harmful use of alcohol results in approximately 2.5 million deaths each year. Almost 4 per cent of all deaths worldwide are attributed to alcohol.”
Reasoning out the factors involved with the rise in alcohol-related deaths, Sameer Malhotra, head of the psychiatry department at Max hospital opined, “Yes, alcohol-related deaths are on the rise. We are seeing the clinical population. There are multiple of factors which are responsible for the rise in alcohol related deaths. Factors included: level of alcohol consumption has gone up, age of consuming alcohol has only receded over the years, social acceptance has increased, laws have become a bit slack, unawareness about the complications associated with alcohol.”
Rejecting the suggestion to ban alcohol sale, S Sudarshan, senior psychiatrist at Rockland Hospital said, “Banning the sale of alcohol is not the solution to curb the problem. It will encourage people to brew illicit liquor. This will consequently lead to more deaths and will also promote smuggling.”
A state-wise analysis of 2012 data revealed that maximum number of alcohol-related deaths occurred in Maharashtra (1514), followed by Madhya Pradesh (564), Karnataka (415), Haryana (367), Punjab (273). However in 2011, the list remained more and less the same. Maharashtra topped the list with the highest number of death cases at 1185 followed by Madhya Pradesh (486), Haryana (309), Karnataka (304), and Chhattisgarh (270).
Similarly, city-wise analysis of 2012 data showed that Mumbai topped the list with 166 alcohol-related deaths. Delhi came second with 142 death cases followed by Nagpur (140), Bengaluru (121), and Jaipur (61). However in 2011, it was Chennai which registered the maximum deaths of 281, followed by Delhi (140), Mumbai (112), Nagpur (95), and Bengaluru (79).
Citing the main causes of alcohol-related deaths, Malhotra asserted, “Alcohol-related causes of death include road traffic accidents, liver related complications and brain related problems. Alcohol consumption dulls your responses. While you are driving, chances of road accidents are pretty high. In the long run, alcohol leads to brain related complications. It also develops forgetfulness.”
Moreover, it is expected that alcohol consumption will increase in India. According to the report released in 2011 by industry body, Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham), alcohol consumption in India will cross 19,000 million litres by 2015 from the level of 6,700 million litres witnessed in 2011.
Agreeing with the above findings, Samir Shah, founder member and the general secretary of the National Liver Foundation, averred, “Whenever the usage of alcohol will increase, deaths would increase in the same proportion. Most of the people start by some kind of an experimental use.”
It is the need of the hour that we need to provide better education to the children. Sudarshan stressed, “We should make them aware about the physical and psychological consequences of alcohol consumption. Furthermore, media shouldn’t glorify the use of alcohol.”