The decision to lift prohibition and regulate alcohol in Manipur is, perhaps, one of the toughest decisions made by any government in a real long time – be it the present BJP government or the previous Congress led by O Ibobi Singh. Thirty years after the prohibition was imposed, the State Cabinet decided to lift it and regulate the manufacturing and sales of alcohol, but to a mixed reaction from the public.
While the Coalition Against Drugs and Alcohol (CADA) and a good section of the women's society or mothers, known as Imas, are totally against it, as they have been, another section of the society have appreciated the move of the government, especially the people of Andro. In their views, perhaps they are right in their own ways.
So, is the government right in lifting the prohibition or will it give rise to mass civil opposition and movement? We’ll leave that for the future course of action that is likely to follow, whichever way it goes.
Perhaps, the real question here is, can we really tell someone what to drink or what not to drink? Is it really to ban it totally and completely?
For 30 long years, despite the prohibition, alcohol was manufactured, sold and drank, so much so that Manipur was ranked fifth in the list of top alcohol consuming states as per the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5), 2019-21. It is as they say ‘Stolen fruit is the sweetest’, that, despite the ban, it was consumed in high quantities and it continues even today. And perhaps, lifting the ban or not, drinking will, perhaps, continue.
So, can we really tell someone not to drink or put a control on who should drink and who should not? Alcohol will be there, as long as there are stars in the sky for it existed when the world was created. And despite the ban, it has been consumed every now and then, so much so that one cannot imagine an event without alcohol, though illegally on most occasions. And the government’s move to lift the prohibition may or may not add to the number of drinkers or the opposition by CADA and others may not reduce the number of drinkers either, but to stop someone from drinking is perhaps the biggest challenge.
So, is lifting of prohibition the real challenge here for CADA and those opposing the move? Difficult to say! For, regulate it or ban it, those who drink will continue to drink and those who don’t, won’t. Hence, the real question here is, perhaps, to drink or not to drink. It’s one's personal choice, really!
(The views expressed are personal)