Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Maharashtra raises legal age for drinking to 25.....get ready for more corruption!

I have argued in the past that much of the corruption in India comes from plain stupid rules. Rules that are anachronistic with our times. Rules that are designed to trouble ordinary people, who in turn will part with money to get their work done. One such rule is the one made yesterday in Maharashtra which raises the legal drinking limit to 25 years from the current 21. For beer, the age has been raised from 18 to 21. Obviously, the government believes that at 18, you are sensible enough to vote and drive, but not enough to drink!

In addition to raising the minimum age, the new rule also makes it compulsory to take “police or excise” permissions before serving liquor even at birthday parties. It introduces a ridiculous concept – that liquor drinkers must have “permits”. Further, it imposes limits on purchase – only two bottles of liquor can be purchased by a permit holder in a week. And of course, it has the requisite threat built-in to ensure the salary raise for the cops – they can arrest you and charge you criminally if you violate these laws. Amazing!

Here’s my specific allegation. The government is not naive. It knows perfectly well that this law of theirs will lead to more corruption. A whole new stream of illegal monies has been opened up. It knows fully well it has no ways of checking the tyranny and loot of the cops once this law is enacted. But it has chosen to hide behind the excuse of “public morality” to launch this perverse law.

Let’s see if it is at all possible for the government to enforce the new law. Take the minimum age requirement. It’s impossible to implement this. Those who want to drink will drink anyways. Like those who want to watch adult movies will watch them even if they are below 18. Atleast 18 is a transitionary age – it’s relatively easy to spot a kid who is below 18 from one who is above. But there is virtually no way to find out who is above or below 25 years of age. Many 40 year olds look like they are 25 and vice versa! What this means is that before buying liquor, one will have to carry a photo-id and age proof! And I guess the liquor vendor will have to keep a photocopy of this photo-id for his records! Else, how will he be able to prove that he sold the liquor to an above-25 person. In reality what will happen is that the liquor vendor will make “arrangements” with the local cop not to trouble his business and he will continue selling to whoever comes to his shop.

Take the bit about liquor permits. Now this is truly a retrograde move. In a time when governments are becoming smaller globally and when licenses of all forms are being removed, this one takes the country back into the 1970s “license raj”. A permit is nothing but a license. In the earlier days, we need licenses to open factories, to import, to export....for everything. Everyone knows just how much corruption existed in the license raj. None of the babus and politicians liked it when the license raj was terminated during the 1990s. The new law enacted by Maharashtra is the equivalent of getting the license raj back into play. Even getting the permit is a pain. Carrying it around in the wallet even more so. And how does the government plan to keep this check of 2 bottles per week? Will the permit be like a diary in which the liquor vendor will make an entry when he sells a bottle? Or will all liquor vendors compulsorily be computerized and networked across the state so that purchases at different shops can be added up? I remember the time when buying foreign currency needed a note to be made in the passport. That was 15 years back. We are now back in the same era.

Then this permission from the cops or excise guys even for personal parties. I am quite sure the official fees for the permission will be very small.....say Rs 100 or so.....but more importantly, I am dead sure that it will be a pain to get such permissions. That’s where the rub is. The more the pain, the more the money the “honest” guys who approach the cops for permission will pay. The “dishonest” guys will simply bypass the permission process and “manage” it when the cop comes inquiring!

Here’s why it’s obvious that this law is a sham. If the intention is to control binges amongst the citizens (stop society from getting depraved), then will the government also put a limit on how much liquor one can drink in pubs and restaurants? What if I drink 4 drinks (240 ml) three times a day in pubs (that’s one bottle over) and buy two more at the vendor? Does my “permit” have a provision for this also? Wow! And technically, isn’t 2 bottles a rather generous helping? It’s 2 bottles per person after all! And what if my wife doesn’t drink much and I use her “quota” to buy 4 bottles per week. Very interesting! So now we have one single policy in Maharashtra for buying liquor locally or getting it from abroad when we return – 2 bottles per person!

The real truth is that this law has been made intentionally with the sole purpose of giving the cops a raise. How else can the hapless souls make their two ends meet? If their salaries would be legally increased, our TV anchors would scream their heads off. In the past also, in Bombay, a rule was passed that raised fines for lane crossing (are there any lanes in Bombay??!!), speeding (what an imaginary concept!) etc to Rs 2000 from Rs 100 or something. The intention was never to deter motorists from crossing lanes or was only to give a “raise” to the cops. After all, if the fine is more, your willingness to pay the bribe is more also. This new act of Maharashtra is on similar lines. It’s time the Central government....or someone....steps in to stop this charade. We don’t want the Congress now to become the guardians of the Shiv Sena is!


  1. Thank you very much for the real truth. I hope one day all the real truths will come in fromt of public.

  2. Pretty good summary.. the rule is absolutely clever and the intentions are clear.. This is total dictatorship.. can't this be ruled out against in the court?

  3. Minister R R Patil is a creative person, when it comes to enacting law!!!He wants more money to his coffers thro Police Dept!!Thats why, the age limit!!Instead of looking at Law & Order,Sr. Citizen Killings,Robbery in Jewelery shops, Terrorist & Naxalites, he is into Liquor,Permit,Age etc., God Help Patil Saheb!!!NCP IS GROWING STRONG!!!