Opinion is sharply divided between those who support lifting of prohibition and those opposing it. The battle lines are drawn and pro-prohibitionists are going to fight the government decision tooth and nail. Every other day, there is a press conference questioning the state government as to the merits of the decision to partially lift the blanket ban. Pro-prohibition groups led by Nupi Samaj and CADA are building up the pressure while the government remains firm on its decision. Everyone has something to say and social media is awash with it.
Yet, something is not right with the debate. The pro-government opinion is basically about adulteration and compromise in quality of the local brew and entry of adulterated IMFL due to the extended prohibition, besides health complications caused by it. Since the decision, figures and statistics from National Family Health Survey and FSSAI on both health concerns and quality of liquor available in the state have magically appeared in newspaper reports.
Everyone knows, the government is doing everything to push its agenda. On the other hand, pro-prohibitionists are asking whether there is such a thing as good liquor and demand a white paper on the government decision. The advocates of the government decision had erred somewhere in projecting adulterated and regulated liquor as the sole reason for causing liver cirrhosis and other health problems and of a minister saying that there is no case of liver cirrhosis in Goa where there is no prohibition and the local brew Feni is openly promoted.
As we said before, the argument was rather silly. But the debate is not about whether liquor is good or bad for health and society. We agree that, alcohol is the main cause of domestic strife and has the potential of the wayward youth seeking refuge in it thereby leading to abuse. But, the question we have to ask ourselves is whether we have been able to actually stop the production and sale of both local brew and India Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) in the state. And, the debate should not be about whether liquor or alcohol is good or bad. Since time immemorial, we offer it to the gods and seek blessings for good health and life without worries.
Not only in offerings, it is even related to what and how we eat and drink in ‘Chakcha-Yuthak’ otherwise referred to as table manners, nowadays. There is nothing good in excess or abuse and it leads to all kinds of problems. Simply put, what is good about the food we eat? There are warnings everywhere about the diet we are consuming daily, which is leading to several health problems. Fish is our staple food. Smoked and fermented fish is used daily in our daily stew otherwise known as Kangsoi.
At times, when we are mourning we replace Ngari with Hawaichar, fermented soyabean. Is it good for health? Ask any doctor and he will come up with several ailments linked with it. There is no good or bad food or for that matter good or bad liquor. The key lies in how one prepares or cooks the dish and it is the same with the distillation process besides the utensils and ingredients used to bring about the end product. But again, it is a matter of one’s choice as to what he eats and drinks and certainly not of the society or government to impose on the citizens.
As for maintaining quality and prescribed limits under FSSAI in our local brew, certain regulations are indeed needed of the hour. But, the economic interests of the Chakpa villages should be of prime consideration of policy planners while amending the Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act. If at all, major distilleries are to be established, it should be solely for these Chakpa villages and certainly not for out of village industrialists out to make profits in the name of the local Kalei.