The state government is heavily involved in the presentation of plans for the building of a new Kerala and related publicity endeavours. The emphasis in all of them is on devlopment, people's welfare and increase of job opportunities. There is no two opinion that the loss by the state in infra-structure, houses and means of living suffered during two floods is to be made good on top priority. There is also the undeniable the need for the communities, like the government, to be part of this rehabiliation drive. In addition to this there is the need for achieving progress and development in tune with the times. Together with maintaining the creditable record of the state – which tops the list of human development index in the country - the challenge facing Kerala is to achieve sufficient progress in the growth rate – that forms the foundation of everything else.
Even accepting all this, there is a question that we need to ask ourselves. Where does Kerala stand in terms of humanity and morality which should result from all round progress? Unfortunatey, the answer we receive to this question is not only far from honourable and consoling for us, but even causing concern. The most hazardous of them is the irresistble spread of the use of alcohol, drugs and smoking. The left wing government, which keeps stressing that its policy is not of prohibition, but abstinence from liquor, does not do anything to promote abstinence; it is even going a step further by taking expeditious measures for easy avilability and spread of alcoholic substances.
It is futile not to recognize the fact that what makes Kerala's youth a victim of alcoholism is nothing but the easy availability of alcohol. The government policy is to issue licences without restrictions to hotels starting from two star status, increase the number and reach of outlets of Beverages Corporation, and grant permission for liquor shops even close to eduational institutions. Indications are that in the new liquor policy to be declared in February, it aims at starting pubs that operate throughout the night.
The facts in a report by Kerala Police released two days ago should open the eyes of everyone. The report was in response to a suo motu petition by the High Court based on a letter by a retired IPS officer. It contains a figure that 31.8 per cent of the youth of Kerala use alcohol, narcotics, pan masala and smoking. The same also states that adoloesents land in this bad habit not without knowledge about its harms. Then who is it that benefits from the awareness creation claimed by the government? Even the youths, who get convinced of the harms through their own experience, do knowingly fall a prey to alcoholism – which speaks amply to prove that easy availability is its cause. On Christmas alone, liquor worth Rs 1.65 crore was sold through Beverages outlets, i.e. 9 per cent higher than last year's. And on New Year's Eve the sale of liquor was to the tune of Rs 89.12 Crore, marking a 16 per cent increase over last year. Add to this the figure of alcoholic drinks sold through the bar hotels and toddy shops spread all over the state .
Although the appallingly increasing female torture, child sexual abuse, and other criminal acts are not entirely the result of alcohol use, its role in the social maladies cannot be denied. The recent revelations through the media about some scandalous incidents in the film world, were about the misbehaviour of a section of film stars involved in use of narcotics. Whatever be the veracity of all such reports, one cannot gloss over the fact that a good percentage of young men and women inspired by dreams about the film world, are traversing along a path of disaster. The report of Justice K Hema Committee that was released the other day has pointed at certain stark realities in this regard. The Committee, appointed by the Pinarayi government, reveals that women face sexual attacks, including the practice of 'casting couch' (sexual exploitation with a bait of opportunities in films). The report that was submitted after fact-finding and hearing lasting two years, has cited in particular that human rights violations faced by women in shooting venues are in a large number. It also mentions that young female actors, entering the cineworlld afresh, are subjected to sexual torture and that the victims of such attempts do not often file complaints with the police. Also cited is the fact that assaults following the consumption of alcohol and drugs are on the increase. Even otherwise, after displaying the statutory warning 'drinking and smoking are injurious to health' like a ritual, don't the majority of the films starring those including the superstars, portray binging sprees? In short, if this is the course of progess chosen for the building of a new Kerala, it will only be a sure recipe for making 'God's own country' a scene of diverse distortions of a people witt moral and human degradation.