A committee that was constituted by the Delhi government in September to suggest measures for augmenting state excise revenue has made various welcome recommendations, an important one being to lower the legal drinking age from 25 to 21 years. Because “alcohol for human consumption” is in the state list, India has a real interstate challenge in this matter. For example in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and Haryana the legal age is 21 years already.
More fundamentally, when one can vote and get married and have one’s own children by 21 years of age, it is just not reasonable that one should be made to wait another four years to enjoy a drink. Actually unreasonable laws of this nature are an invitation to abuse. They drive behaviours underground and that is much more undesirable, more unhealthy and more dangerous by far.
The committee has done well to seek to “transform the nature of liquor commensurate to the changing stature of the capital.” The problem is that this solution has been on the table for years. But whenever the party in government proposes it opposition parties begin moralising and stymie the whole thing. Five years ago for example when Kapil Mishra was tourism minister in the Kejriwal cabinet he too had proposed this, but then Delhi BJP president Satish Upadhyay decried “bad impact on society” and attempts to make an “alcoholic Delhi” and ultimately status quo prevailed.
This time should be different, if only because the pandemic and accompanying economic crisis have tanked government revenues. Lowering the legal drinking age will also provide succour to the hospitality industry which is among the worst affected.
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