Anything to do with liquids like wine, alcohol, spirit, etc does not find many takers in India. The average Indian considers them an evil that mankind can and should do without.
Which is why India ranking 150th among 184 countries in consumption of alcohol listed in World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Status Report on Alcohol, 2004 comes as no surprise (ref: ToI, Kolkata, Jul 25).
To crunch some numbers, India’s per capita consumption per annum of liquor in the population over 15 years of age is a negligible 0.86 litre. Note the figure is for a whole year.
Contrast this with figures like 19.5 litres for Uganda, 13.5 for France, 12.9 for Germany, 8.5 for US, and so on. Do I hear you say that poor Indians drink country liquors that aren’t usually recorded? WHO has answer for that too.
According to WHO report, even considering traditional alcoholic beverages that normally go unrecorded, the figure improves to 2.6 litres, still not good enough to find a berth in top 100.
By now you’d have rightly thought that I’m all for consumption of liquor. So I am, and I strongly believe that drinking alcohol in healthy doses does in fact do a lot good. See my stories, Drink and walk to live healthy and Is drinking an avoidable evil?
But wait, before you raise your voice in voluble protest, let me say that there is one big reason why liquor is not popular with common people. It is the duty that the government milks on the sale of liquor, specially the IMFL (India Manufactured Foreign Liquor) variety, which is the culprit.
Last November, the EU countries lodged a complaint with the WTO (World Trade Organization) of which India is a signatory and a member country about the prohibitively high duties applied on retail sale of imported alcohol.
After much dilly-dallying, India has agreed to slash the duties on imported spirits early this month from an astonishing 550 percent to 150 percent. Consequently the EU dropped its complaint against India at the WTO.
What this means is that good quality imported liquor can now share shelf-space with Indian varieties at the shops. And hopefully, with a range to choose from that too within affordable limit, people will take to drinking alcohol more often than they now do.
This may also prompt Indian companies to invent more varieties and not just the usual fares. When the necessity percolates down through layers of denials, there will be less reason to look for occasional ‘occasions’ to celebrate with tinkling glasses.