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

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Morbidities of Alcohol

The article by Dakshita Das (“Gender Issues for the Fourteenth Finance Commission”, EPW, 21 December 2013) draws attention to some of the devastating social consequences of the use of the tax on liquor as a means to generate large revenues for the State. Thus, in Tamil Nadu, the widespread availability of liquor through the vast network of TASMAC shops (Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation) generates huge revenues through both excise duties and sales taxes. The author mentions some of the negative consequences of such liquor sales on women and families, such as violence, tension and marital quarrels, and shortage of money in the family leading to violence and extraction of money, and others. Clearly, liquor is a major threat to the quality of women’s lives.

But this is not all – a deeper look will point to damaging consequences also to men, and to the economic and social fabric as a whole. For example, a study of the levels of male morbidity and mortality in Tamil Nadu in the last 20 years, and it should not be difficult for the Finance Commission to obtain these figures, is likely to show high levels of both. The social consequences during the years of morbidity would include irregular and/or loss of employment leading to lower earnings by males in the family on the one hand, and high costs of hospitalisation, medical expenses and care during periods of illness, sometimes as much as 10 years, on the other. After the death of the male, the family becomes woman-headed, but one with a heavy debt burden as a result of the expenditures of nursing and of funeral costs. With limited earning capacity (as women’s work almost always brings in less than that of men) and other social costs such as risk of community ostracism and sexual harassment by men seeking “unprotected” women, the social costs linger much longer.

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