India's liquor problems: alcohol consumption patterns in Indian states

·7-min read
BARABANKI, INDIA - MAY 12: A rush of people looking to purchase alcohol at an overcrowded liquor vend  on May 12, 2021 in Barabanki, India.  (Photo by Deepak Gupta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
BARABANKI, INDIA - MAY 12: A rush of people looking to purchase alcohol at an overcrowded liquor vend on May 12, 2021 in Barabanki, India. (Photo by Deepak Gupta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

The Kerala High Court recently pulled up the state government for its ‘failure’ to ensure COVID protocols were being followed at the Beverages Corporations’ liquor shops. The High Court ordered the Government to ensure that Covid protocols are followed in the liquor outlets and that said that health was more important than revenue. It also asked the state to consider opening outlets at less crowded places and avoid main roads.  

Ever since liquor outlets were reopened in the state, in June, the state has seen record sales and huge lines outside the outlets. A major reason for the overcrowding is that, till recently, liquor was sold only at state-run outlets. This was because post the second lockdown, Bevco had raised the profit share of liquor supplied to bars to 25 per cent from the previous 8 per cent. This had caused the closure of bars and wine parlours across the state.

Kerala is not the only state in India that has seen serpentine lines after liquor outlets were reopened amidst the pandemic. Cities across the country have witnessed unruly crowds, with all social distancing rules being thrown to the wind, with the police having to step in to manage crowds. 

How India likes its tipple

India is among the top ten consumers of alcohol in the world, ranked at 7th place, consuming 663 million litres of alcohol. Out of this, the five southern states – Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala and Karnataka account for 45 per cent of all liquor sales in India.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 11 per cent of Indians are binge drinkers – the global average is 16 per cent. The average alcohol consumption in India is 5.7 litres per person above the age of 15. The country is also home to six crore alcohol addicts. 

Around 21 states derive more than 15 per cent of their tax revenue from the sale of liquor. Further, despite bans in some states over the purchase of liquor under the age of 25, a study has revealed that more than 88 per cent of Indians under the age of 25 purchase or consume liquor.

We take a look at the states with the most alcohol consumption in India:

Assam: As per data from the Health and Family Welfare Statistics (HFWS), 59.4 per cent of men consume alcohol in Assam, in the age group of 15-54. This is much higher than the national average of 29.5 per cent. Assam has 713 country liquor shops and 2,512 IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor) shops. Women in Assam consume the most amount of alcohol in India, with 44.8 per cent of women in the age group of 15-44 consuming alcohol at least once a week. 

Chhattisgarh: Amidst the lockdown, Chhattisgarh became the second state after Kerala to open state-run liquor stores. The state did so keeping in mind the alcohol withdrawal symptoms citizens of the state were experiencing. The Chhatisgarh government also allowed home delivery of liquor during the lockdown to avoid overcrowding at liquor outlets and to curb illegal manufacturing, sale and transportation of liquor. The state received Rs 5,000 crore as total revenue collection from alcohol sales excise. More than 35 per cent of men in the state consume alcohol, while 13.7 per cent of women in the state consume alcohol. 

Telangana: As per the National Family Health Survey-5, 43.3 per cent of men above 15 years of age drink alcohol in Telangana. Rural men consume more alcohol (49 per cent) than urban men (33.9 per cent). Women (6.7 per cent), however, drink much less when compared to men. Tax from liquor in the state is 10 per cent of the revenue share.

Sikkim: The state has a high percentage of women drinkers (19.1 per cent) in the 15-49 year group who consume alcohol in Sikkim about once a week. Further, in Sikkim, the percentage of women above the age of 15 consuming alcohol was higher in rural areas than in urban areas. Sikkim also has a high percentage of male drinkers, with 39.8 per cent men consuming alcohol. 

Punjab: A study conducted in 2019 by AIIMS ranked Punjab first in alcohol consumption among children. As per the study, 1.2 lakh children in the age group of 10 and 17 consume alcohol. This is despite the fact that 25 is the legal drinking age in the country. The state’s per capita annual consumption of liquor is 7.9 litres, the second-highest among the states.

Karnataka: Karnataka is among the largest consumers of alcohol in the country – guzzling a whopping 12 per cent of national sales. The state also sources 11 per cent of its revenue from liquor tax. Karnataka, however, is among the states recording the lowest alcohol consumption in the 15-54 age group for women, at just 0.1 per cent.

Tamil Nadu: At 15 per cent, Tamil Nadu, along with Kerala, tops the list when it comes to revenue percentage. In Tamil Nadu, the state controls liquor sales, with TASMAC (Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation), holding a monopoly over wholesale and retail vending of alcoholic beverages. The state is also among the largest guzzlers of alcohol in the country, consuming 13 per cent of national sales. The Madras High Court has appealed to the State Government to bring prohibition to the state in a phased manner, keeping in mind the offences committed against women and children under the influence of alcohol.  

Goa: The state, with its party image, has always been a haven for tipplers. Around 36.9 per cent of the state's men consume alcohol, surprisingly lower than Telangana. The Goa Government has, however, been cracking down on alcohol consumption in public places and has announced a ban on drinking alcohol on the state’s beaches with a penalty of Rs 10,000 to those found violating it.

Himachal Pradesh: As per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), 2019-20, 30.4 per cent of men consume alcohol in urban areas, while in rural areas 32.1 per cent of men do so. The percentage among women is low - only 0.3 per cent women consume alcohol in urban areas while in rural areas, it is 0.7 per cent.

Arunachal Pradesh: A large percentage of men in Arunachal Pradesh (59 per cent) consume alcohol, making it among the top alcohol consuming states in India. Among women, the figures are also high (33.6 per cent). The Government started levying a 25 per cent cess on liquor in May, last year, with the additional levy expected to garner Rs 70 crore to the exchequer per month.   

Bihar: Despite the fact that alcohol is officially banned in Bihar, the dry state sees high consumption among men (15.5 per cent of all men above the age of 15), as per NFHS 2019-20. This is higher than in Maharashtra, which does not have prohibition and where 13.9 per cent men consume alcohol. 15.8 per cent of men in rural areas consume alcohol in the state, while in rural areas, 14 per cent men consume alcohol. This percentage is much lower among women - only 0.4 per cent women consume alcohol in the state.   

Meanwhile, a recent study published in the journal The Lancet Oncology has linked more than 6.3 million cases of cancer in 2020 to alcohol consumption. Cancer of the mouth, larynx, breast, colon, rectum, liver, oesophagus, all have links to alcohol consumption. 

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