The per capita consumption of alcohol in India increased 38 percent, from 1.6 litres in 2003-05 to 2.2 litres in 2010-12, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, which also revealed that more than 11 percent of Indians were binge drinkers, against the global average of 16 percent.
The data explain the wide political support for crackdowns on alcohol, although experts point out that alcohol is a health problem – not a moral one.
In Tamil Nadu, J. Jayalalithaa shut down 500 liquor stores on May 23, the first day of her fourth term as chief minister. In April, Bihar imposed prohibition – a ban on the sale, production and consumption of alcohol. In August 2014, Kerala restricted the sale of liquor to five-star hotels.
Pre-poll surveys in Kerala and Tamil Nadu found wide support for prohibition, 47 percent of men and women in Kerala and 52 percent in Tamil Nadu, the Indian Express reported. The leading reason for the ban, respondents said, was alcohol-fuelled domestic violence.
Before the latest crackdowns on alcohol, Gujarat and Nagaland were the only Indian states with prohibition.
Maharashtra tops alcohol-related deaths
Maharashtra reported the most alcohol-related deaths, followed by Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, according to the NCRB data, with experts saying high rates of alcoholism correlate with high crime rates.
“Major crimes and accidents are fuelled by alcohol, which also leads to sexual harassment of women and robberies,” S. Raju, of Tamil Nadu’s Makkal Adhikaram (People’s Power) told the BBC. “Alcohol abuse is also the reason why Tamil Nadu has the largest number of widows under 30 years of age.”
A quarter of all hospital admissions and 69 percent of all crimes in Kerala are due in part to intoxication, according to the Alcohol and Drug Information Centre, an NGO, quoted in The Economist.
Five people died every day in 2014 after drinking spurious liquor