Do Indians need a licence to drink?

May 28, 2012

After police busted a rave in a swanky part of Mumbai last week, the city’s drinkers have woken up with an almighty legal hangover.

Authorities have decided to enforce a 63-year-old law that requires every adult above the age of 25 to own a permit for alcohol consumption.

According to the Bombay Prohibition Act, introduced in 1949, every drinker in Mumbai needs a government permit — 5 rupees for a daily licence and 1,000 rupees ($18) for a lifetime permit.

Once an individual acquires the permit, they can possess up to 12 units of liquor at any given time. The penalty for boozing without a licence will be a fine of 50,000 rupees or five years in jail, or both.

I have three problems with this plan.

One: if the police want people to drink sensibly, or to give up the bottle altogether, I doubt that a thousand rupees will act as enough of a deterrent.

Two: if it is meant to keep underage drinkers away, the law looks tough to enforce. Drunk drivers are easier to catch and fine than people enjoying a tipple in the privacy of their home.

Three: corruption is endemic at every level in Indian society. These permits will open a tempting new way for officers to harass drinkers for bribes, as they already do for anything from traffic violations to getting a passport.

And how will this licence work in practice? Will police ask Nandan Nilekani, the man in charge of rolling out India’s first ever unique identity card system, to add a person’s drinking status onto their personal data? And will Mumbai, the financial hub of India, give its many tourists and visiting businessmen an alcohol visa on arrival?


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This law was an utter failure in the days of Morarji Desai (the urine drinking minister) who was the pioneer of the prohibition law. Scores of “speak easises” mushroomed serving country “bevda” (country hooch)many people went blind because of the way country liquor is made. India is the most corrupt nation in terms of govt. officials and policing it’s in their DNA and part of their daily life. This stupid law will do nothing for people with drinking problems, absolutely nothing! Been there done that and actually lived it.

Posted by politicaljunkie | Report as abusive

India perhaps is the only country in the world where a social activist such Anna Hazare could announce a fasting-unto-death at Jantar Mantar (in Delhi) oneday bringing the entire Parliament house to a standstill on an issue such as corruption and on another day undertake a visit to Mumbai to wax eloquence on Thackerays for the best governance.

Posted by maGiK | Report as abusive