ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Brewing Poison and Death

Governments take the easy way out by offering compensation rather than ensuring safe alcohol.


The 116 deaths in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand due to imbibing illicit liquor have once again foregrounded the issue of total prohibition versus sensible consumption of safe alcohol. Studies have shown that current drinking practices disproportionately raise the risk of diseases and injuries in low-income and lower-middle-income countries as compared to high-income countries due to factors like differences in the type of alcohol consumed, among others. Invariably, it is the very poor and the near destitute who bear the fatal consequences of consumption of spurious liquor. The lead-up to such tragedies and the aftermath almost always follow a set pattern. The government’s response in the case of the poor is to offer them pacificatory compensation, and to attempt to dissipate the outrage. Would the government’s response be the same if a large number of deaths occurred among the economically better-off sections due to consumption of liquor of deficient quality?

So familiar are these unfortunate incidents of deaths that not even the numbers generate public interest and discussion beyond a couple of days. Pictures of wailing women and children, announcements of compensation, and the arrests of a few conclude the matter. This time around, however, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh has added a new twist to this affair. The state government set up a special investigation team that was instructed to look for a “conspiracy” by the ruling party’s political opponents behind these deaths. Even in death, the poor are expected to be of some use to a section of the political class!

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Updated On : 19th Feb, 2019
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