Bioethics in India: Proceedings of the International Bioethics Workshop in Madras: Biomanagement of Biogeoresources, 16-19 Jan. 1997, University of Madras; Editors: Jayapaul Azariah, Hilda Azariah, & Darryl R.J. Macer, Copyright Eubios Ethics Institute 1997.

25. Behavioural Malignancy: Alcoholism A Bleakfuture?

Vanaja S. Kumar
Department of Sociology, BMS College for Women, Bangalore 560004

1. Introduction

The association of humans with alcohol is from times immemorial. Epics and Mythology of India reveal the earliest evidence of human consumption of alcohol. Omar Khayyum glorified alcohol in his Rubayats. Alcohol's association with society is from the very inception of both. Alcohol permeates, pleases and plagues the world. This necessary social evil, despite of its ill effects, has a lot of charm, and attracts the society.

Alcohol is both functional and dysfunctional. Under certain circumstances it relieves pain, tension and worry, simultaneously providing pleasurable sense of warmth and relaxation. Contrary to this, the excess of it leads to many an ailment like liver disorders, drunkenness, neurological pathology and death. Further, alcohol is many times a reason for accidents and crime. Alcohol is an important source of revenue for a country, and the internal and international commerce depends, to a great extent, on that, besides providing employment to a large number of people.

There are two types of alcoholics namely moderate and problem drinkers. While the former can control the consumption of alcohol, the latter cannot. Moderate drinkers are small in any society compared to problem drinkers. There are innumerable number of instances of moderate drinker becoming a problem drinker, where as the reverse is highly insignificant. Drinking becomes a personal and social problem to a drinker.

Liquor drinking is a major socio-economic evil which has effects on the life of the drinker, his family and the society. It leads to crime, lawlessness, ill health, frustration, broken homes and social ostracism. The youth suffers in the educational and academic fields, develop criminal mentality, and take up to drugs leading to total disorganization and destruction.

The latest genetic research has shown the possible influence of an inherited gene - "ALCOHOLIC GENE?' in alcoholics, and thus indicating that alcoholism is not only an acquired problem, but to some extent a genetic disorder also.

The major cause for the increase in alcoholism in Bangalore city is the innumerable number of Liquor outlets and the easy accessibility to the drink which in turn corrupts the minds of young and old. The police records show that there is quite a significant increase in the rate of accidents and deaths associated with alcoholism.

2. Methodology

Data was collected from primary and secondary sources. Personal interviews were conducted with alcoholics, who form the primary source; and discussion with their family members and neighbours, etc. who form the secondary source. Meticulous care was taken not to irritate or aggravate either. Though there was a basic skeletal questionnaire most of the information was gathered on an "on the spot random questioning". However, a 100% authentic information cannot be acquired since most of the alcoholics do not come out with truth especially with regard to the quantity of alcohol consumed and expenditure incurred per day.

Statistics and additional information were collected from the government records (Excise and Police), newspaper libraries on the socioeconomic aspects while health and behavioural data was collected through prolonged and detailed discussions with doctors, psychiatrists and social workers at Alcoholic Anonymous and at NIMHANS, Bangalore. Data was analyzed and comprehensively tabled into two tables following a pseudo-longitudinal analytical approach. This approach looks at from the present to the past.

3. Results and Discussion

Results are presented in Table 1 and 2. As mentioned earlier a 100% authentic information cannot be gathered and hence all possible and sincere efforts have been made to get as much truth as possible. Information about alcoholics and alcoholism is highly scattered and often unreliable which is again a global phenomenon.

Table 1 shows population of Bangalore as per the census of 1991. The number of outlets, production and revenue of alcohol are also incorporated. Table 2 presents the economics of the 3 categories of income groups, the percentage of men, women, boys and girls consuming alcohol on a regular basis and the expenditure incurred.

Bangalore has got the highest number of bars, pubs, arrack shops and wine shops in the entire country besides the clubs and Star Hotels serving Liquor. There are about 3000 wine shops, 2000 Arrack Shops, 1000 bars and pubs in Bangalore City and District. No other City in India has got so many outlets. Of the population of about 50 Lakhs in Bangalore, abut 35% are habitual drinkers and the incidence is very high when compared to the 18% of alcoholics in the entire country's population. Bangalore city tops in the chronic drinkers in India.

There is a vast increase in the production of alcohol. From 16.53 Lakh litres (L.L.) in 1971, the production was increased to 48.33 L.L. by 1991. A 31.77 L.L. of alcohol is consumed more within a span of 20 years. Surprisingly there is a leap of 7.90 L.L. between 1991 and 1992, indicating an alarming rise in alcohol consumers. The consumption of Indian Made Foreign Liquors (IMFL) in Bangalore city alone, in 1991, was 740.31 L.L. The rate at which the Bangalore youth has taken up to drinking is highly disturbing. Of the 500 youth going to pubs during the weekends about 100 are girls (13-19 yrs). Most of these boys and girls smoke while at pubs.

Amongst the high income group, the number of women, boys and girls who have taken up to drinking is also quite high (Table 2). 8% of the women drinkers in the high income group expressed that it was boredom and no work at home that led them to drinking. While the low income group women explained that the physical fatigue and regular drunken brawls with husbands and others resulted in taking up to drinks. Table 2 also indicates that the girls in the middle and low income groups do not go for drinking, which cannot be 100% true. The psychiatrists report that most of the boys and girls who take up to drinks are the victims of unhappy homes or for fun and fad.

The expenditure incurred on alcohol ranges between 30% and 50% in the high income group; between 15% and 31% in the middle income group and 50% and above in the low income group. Statistic show that working class in other parts of the country spend between 7% to 10% of income on alcohol, which is very low in comparison to the Bangalore's similar groups spending 50% and above. It is 15% to 20% in high income groups in other parts of the country whereas it is 30% to 50% in Bangalore. This data clearly shows the high rate of expenditure incurred on alcohol in Bangalore.

It is established beyond any doubt that the crime rate also increases due to alcohol consumption. The police records show that there has been a steady increase in alcohol associated crimes in Bangalore also. Alcohol is the 3rd largest killer, according to the worldwide survey, the first and second being heart attack and cancer. Needless to say that the personal health of the consumer also gets severely affected leading to death, if unchecked at the proper time.

Table I: Alcohol in Bangalore

1. Population (1991): 4,839,160

2. Slums: About 150

3. Alcohol Outlets:

A) Liquor Shops ca.3100 (1995)

B) Arrack Shops ca.2200

C) Pubs & Bars ca.1200 L.L.

4. Alcohol Consumption:

1971 16.53

1991 48.30

1995 66.20 L.L.

1971 vs. 1991 +31.77 L.L. 1991 vs. 1995 +19.90 L.L.

5. Revenue

A) Arrack Auction 1995 Rs. 99.42 Crores Imfl

B) Wholesale Rs. 85,00

C) Retail Rs. 50,00

D) Hotels & Bars Rs. 60,00

E) Pubs Rs. 30,00

Table 2: Economics in different Income groups

Income Men Women Boys Girls Spending Income

Group per Day

High 48% 14% 20% 5% Rs.200.00 (Rs. 20,000 / Rs.500.00 per month)

Middle 52% negl. 20% Nil Rs.100.00 (Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 19,000/ Rs.200.00 p.m.)

Low 64% 21% 10% Nil Rs.60.00 (Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 9,000/ Rs.100.00 p.m.)

Bleak Is A Million Dollar Question

The efforts to curb drinking have been mainly through three sources. 1. Prohibition. 2. Temperance Boards and 3.Voluntary Organizations. All the measures taken up by these three sources have failed in Bangalore City since despite their activity the drinking population in Bangalore is multiplying day by day.

A silver lining in the dark cloud was Smt. Sandhya of Dubagunta Village in Andhra Pradesh who started the crusade against drinking single handed. Despite facing the wrath of the arrack contractors and the men folk, this unassuming and unknown lady led the women to revolt against alcoholics and alcoholism. What started as a small movement in a small little sleepy village gained a tremendous force and made the womenfolk of the entire state to fight against arrack. This revolution posed major threat to the Government itself. There was an unprecedented and fantastic welcome from many organizations for this fight against the social evil. The greatest triumph for this movement was the imposition of ban on liquor sale in Nellore District from where the revolution started. Looking at the success of this efforts, the women associations and sanghas in other parts of the Country also joined hands and are fighting to eradicate this social evil and behavioural malignancy.

Could we really find some solution for this menace? The total prohibition will lead to a colossal revenue loss to the government. Can the government cope up with this loss?. The Tamil Nadu government imposed a total prohibition on the production and sale of arrack in the State. But unfortunately the same government gave permission to thousands of liquor shops to convert into low class bars. Though the revenue is compensated the problem of alcoholics and alcoholism remains the same. Secondly the liquor barons with close political links will impede and attenuate any positive move on a single plea that millions will be rendered jobless if the distilleries are closed.

No law exists to severely punish the alcoholics and associated crimes. Since alcohol is a part of the high society culture and that many law makers and executioners are in that society, any strict measure on punishment cannot be expected. Policies were formulated many times against alcohol and abuse, but never implemented.

Can society do something about this threat ? There are two possible measure that can stop the cancerous spread of alcoholism in the society. 1. Awareness and 2. Education. These two projects must be taken up on a war footing with the help of governmental resources, voluntary organizations and the medical services. People must be educated against the ill effects of alcohol and be dragged away from that attraction. Most important point to remember is that the woman who plays a vital role in the family must be educated since woman who is the force that could solve this problem to a great extent.

Can we really come out of this Whirlpool? Can we eradicate this malignancy? Is the future of anti-alcoholism bleak?

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