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Crackdown on underage drinkers needed: Smita Thackeray

Saturday, 9 July 2011 - 8:00am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

DNA believes that in the phony cacophony about personal liberty, there has been little importance to that section of society which is not unhappy with the drinking age limit being raised to 25.

Mom: “It’s 3am. Where were you until now?”

Girl: “Chill, mom, stop nagging. I’m 18; you can’t control my life. I was out pubbing with friends.”

Sounds familiar? Yes, isn’t it the same futile argument that emanates from your neighbours’, or wait, maybe your own houses too? If you are a parent with teenage kids, you know what I mean. And if you have younger children, be prepared for this in the years to come.

These days, the youth seem to be taking to the bottle even before they start earning. I’m shocked to see kids celebrating their 16th birthdays guzzling beer and ‘Breezers’; our 21-22-year-old achievers light up cigarettes to ease stress. And rave parties, like the one that was just busted, seem to be the new entertainment option, the consequences notwithstanding.

What’s happening to us? We were a society that never violated the word of the family’s patriarch. A ‘no’ from parents meant no arguments would be entertained. I think the main culprits here are increased westernisation, busy lifestyles, heavy wallets, peer pressure and an acceptance that alcohol is ‘okay’. Working parents have little time for their children; the breakdown of the joint family system has left kids bereft of the attention and value education from grandparents. Exposure to films, advertisements and print material that promotes permissiveness has led our society to turn a blind eye to waywardness. Popping champagne is a status symbol and a tequila downing competition is ‘cool’. And in all of this, parents seem to be losing control.

Which is why I was secretly glad when the government raised the legal drinking age to 25. Yes, there were loud protests from the youth and champions of freedom; even the youngsters around me complained about how draconian this rule was. But you know what, if parents aren’t able to control their kids and if the youth can’t make the right choice, it is the duty of the state to step in. After all, the future of the country lies in the hands of the youth.

Critics say that a Permit Raj only opens doors to rebellion and corruption. But if the state decides to pursue this seriously, it will show positive results. Police crackdowns, fines, imprisonment and the subsequent public reprimand are sure to make even the most rebellious buckle under fear.

So, as the voices against the rule continue to grow louder, I am sure city parents are secretly giving the government the thumbs up. After all, where society fails, the state needs to step in. This time, I just hope our ministers actually crack the whip.
(Smita Thackeray is a social activist)

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