Prohibition deepens rather than solves problems

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Resist ban mania –  Rulers have  to understand that prohibition deepens

rather than solves problems – April 11, 2017,  Times of India Editorial

James kottoor(Note: It is useless to send out executive orders which can’t be executed. Eating and drinking habits differ from people to people. So it is said, stop disputing or quarreling over tastes to waste time only (De gustibus non est disputandum). Yet if governments indulge in such exercises, it shows the bankruptcy of ideas to govern.

What is more, in a democracy, the considered opinion of the majority should be made to prevail. If the majority is going in the wrong direction they must be first persuaded, not coerced, to take the right path. The government in power can’t endorse conflicting practices – vegetarianism and prohibition – in different states. What happens now is that BJP ruled states are compelled to follow the ban, while states in the North and south are permitted to ignore the ban. This is not democracy but anarchy.

The government in power must first decide what it wants to be instead of making itself a laughing stock before the public and the outside world. james kottoor)

In the absence of good governance, bans can provide an illusion of action even if they make the initial problem worse and create others in its train. For example, reports suggest that prohibition in Bihar is pushing people towards drug addiction. Unfortunately a climate conducive to populist bans, which does not think through the consequences of radical legislation or judicial decrees, has gripped the country.

One might believe that people should drink less or adopt vegetarian lifestyles. But these ideas should be promoted through persuasive social campaigns rather than through draconian legislation or lynch mobs.

The impracticality of prohibition is demonstrated by BJP favouring cow slaughter and beef consumption in northeastern states such as Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya, even as in other BJP-ruled states the chief minister threatens to hang cow killers (Chhattisgarh) while legislation is instituted to award life terms to them (Gujarat).

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has attempted to reconcile these flagrant contradictions, but succeeded only on paper. He has called for a countrywide ban on cow slaughter (overriding the “cooperative federalism” that Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised) and denounced the vigilantism of gau rakshaks even as he wanted people to mobilise to protect cows (a recipe for more violence).

As a result of the atmosphere of hysteria UP’s meat business has been severely disrupted with transportation of even buffaloes at a standstill and an estimated 30,000 jobs lost so far. If poor farmers are prevented from disposing of unproductive cattle today’s agrarian distress is bound to deepen. However, picking up the cue from ban fever, Hoshangabad’s municipal chairman – a BJP functionary – now wants to impose compulsory vegetarianism on the city.

If RSS is serious about cow welfare it should buy unproductive cows from farmers and provide them shelter, using resources mobilised from voluntary donors (not the taxpayer). Even as BJP focuses on other matters more central to people’s welfare.

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