Is an alcohol ban necessary during the lockdown? | LIVEMINT

2020-04-24 | 3 minutes

Context: In its 14th April guidelines, the Ministry of Home Affairs has decided to continue with complete ban on sale of liquor during lockdown period.


  • WHO’s Global status report on alcohol and health 2018 showed that nearly 2,60,000 people are killed due to excessive alcohol consumption in India.
  • In February 2019, the report titled “Magnitude of Substance Use in India” has estimated that nearly 6% of Indian people aged between 10 to 75 years use alcohol.
  • It has been reported that due to ban of liquor (alcohol beverages), states will collectively lose nearly Rs 700 crore revenue every day.
  • Nearly 15-30% of revenue of most states comes from alcohol industry. In financial year 2019-20, Maharashtra, UP, Telangana and Karnataka generated more than Rs 20,000 crore from the sale of alcoholic beverages.
  • Kerala government allowed home delivery of alcohol to people experiencing negative effects of withdrawal from alcohol. The delivery to such people was allowed only after prescription from government doctor.


Status of alcohol ban in other countries during lockdown:

  • Only few countries banned alcohol: Only few countries in the worlds have banned liquor sale during lockdown and India is one of Two such countries banning liquor during lockdown are Thailand and South Africa.
  • New York’s list of essential businesses: New York has emerged as the hotspot of COVID-19. But, wine and spirit stores are part of list of essential businesses in New York. Though India’s Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 categorizes alcoholic beverages as food, India has banned alcohol during the lockdown.
  • European countries: The sale of liquor has increased in European countries during lockdown. As a result, WHO regional office in Europe appealed for ban on sale of alcohol during lockdown. But, the sale of liquor has stopped in India during lockdown.


Unintended negative consequences of alcohol ban in India:

  • On health of the people: As nearly 14.6% of Indian people use alcohol, complete ban on alcohol means that these people will not consume alcohol. As a result, they may develop withdrawal symptoms such as seizures, violent behaviour and suicides. Article 47 of Directive Principle of State Policy (DPSP) clearly directs state to stop consumption of harmful intoxicating drinks. Alcoholic beverages are an example of intoxicating drinks. But, these can be beneficial during the lockdown if they consume responsibly or after the prescription from doctor.
  • On domestic violence: The negative effects of alcohol ban on health and withdrawal symptoms may lead to increase in cases of domestic violence. The number of domestic violence complaints before National Commission for Women (NCW) has already increased from 396 to 587 during lockdown.
  • On revenue: As per International Spirits & Wine Association of India, nearly 15-30% of revenue of most states comes from alcohol industry. The complete ban on alcohol will cause states to lose this revenue. This will happen at a time when states require more funds to fight against COVID-19. States could have used the money from taxes on liquor to strongly fight against COVID-19.



The examples from other countries and unintended negative consequences show that alcohol ban is not necessary during lockdown. Government should ensure that people consume alcohol responsibly in limited amounts or only after prescription from doctor. It should not ban alcohol sale keeping in mind unintended negative consequences of alcohol ban on health, domestic violence and revenue of the states during fight against COVID-19 pandemic.

Mains question:

Should India ban alcohol during the lockdown? Discuss in the light of status of the alcohol ban in other countries and unintended negative consequences of alcohol ban. (250 words)


  • Magnitude of Substance Use in India report:
    • The report titled as Magnitude of Substance Use in India was brought out by Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in collaboration with National Drug Dependent Treatment Centre (NDDTC), AIIMS.
    • It was based on National Survey on Extent and Pattern of Substance Use in India of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
    • The survey was carried all over 36 states and UTs of India during 2018.
  • India is having National Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Policy since 2012.
  • Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has formed a National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction for 2018-2025.