There is currently a raging debate going on in the entire country regarding the right age for allowing youngsters to drink liquor. There is so much coverage on what is not a very important topic in the midst of the challenges India is already facing, that one can easily get tired. The Times of India is even conducting an online campaign in support of the drinking age to be lowered back to 21 years of age.
Well, the arguments advanced in support of continuing the 21 years limit to allow public purchase and consumption of liquor are not surprising, to start with. When one is allowed to vote in elections at the age of 18, and allowed to marry at the age of 21, why the restriction on liquor consumption ? How is this ever going to be implemented, even when the current restriction is not being enforced ? Indian youngsters are mature enough to take care of themselves, and are responsible enough to make decisions for themselves, et al.
While the logic is sound, the legislators of the Maharashtra Assembly obviously felt otherwise and increased the age limit to 25. Certain considerations would have played key role in what appears to be a regressive measure.
Let us look at the accidents involving youngsters. Most of their accidents come out of rash driving and driving under the influence of alcohol. There is no reliable statistics, but much publicized accidents (by the same media who are now crying hoarse against the legislation) in which 18 year olds even killed bystanders under a drunken rage should not be forgotten. What is the certainty that responsibility will kick in ?
Even some student organizations are in support for the extension of the age limit to 25. In my opinion, there is no urgent necessity to indulge in drinking for a celebration. We did not do it in our times when we were youngsters, and what has changed now ? There is no reason to ape the West in everything. The matter is very similar to smoking. Both liquor and cigarettes are major causes of health problems, and why consciously allow indulgence at a very young age ?
This is my personal opinion (disclosure – I am a social drinker but much beyond the age limit !) and I am sure any youngster reading contradictory opinions like this is going to be incensed. But that is her or his right to express – that cannot be questioned. Similarly, they should respect parents’ right of expression and should not muzzle the free thoughts. I did not see one single negative comment on the Times of India article – even parents were all supportive of the right of youngsters to drink at the age of 21 ! Not a single word against it !!
The main issue is enforcement. In the interest of making a sale, the shopkeepers sell to the under-aged. Punishments are extremely rare. The only way that enforcement can be ensured is to make everyone carry an ID card, like in some countries. If that ID card is of credit card size, there should be no problem, and it is the responsibility of the shopkeeper to verify the age of the buyer by specifically demanding to see the card. When we check into any hotel in India for a stay, we have to produce a photo ID card, don’t we ?
Let us see how the battle between the legislators and the young Indian youngsters pan out – it will be interesting to see the arguments on both sides. However, the main point is that this is really an unnecessary distraction when India is facing so many issues and challenges.
19th June 2011