(UCAN) Climbing suicide rate attributed to alcohol abuse, activists say.
Church leaders in Tamil Nadu are spearheading a campaign to ban alcohol sales in the state, saying alcoholism has adversely affected hundreds of families and caused suicides.
"It's high time the government looked at the grave situation and implemented a ban on liquor, which is killing thousands of people," said Bishop Peter Remigius of Kottar, whose diocese is in the southern tip of India.
“If the government has sincerity about the welfare of poor people, it should go for a total ban in the state as alcoholism dehumanizes people and destabilizes society," Bishop Remigius said.
The bishop estimated that "56 percent of coastal people are alcoholics and their addiction is destabilizing families." The diocese's region has some 900,000 people, roughly 30 percent of them Catholics.
Tamil Nadu recorded 16,927 suicides in 2013, according to federal government data. Of this, some 30 to 35 percent are alcohol related, according to Lakshmi Vijayakumar of the suicide prevention group Sneha, who researched the subject.
Following the July death of a protester, anti-liquor campaigners vandalized three liquor shops in Coimbatore on Aug. 3, demanding the closure of shops owned by the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corp., the state-owned firm that has a monopoly over wholesale and retail sales of alcoholic beverages in the state.
The campaign is facing an uphill battle, Bishop Remigius acknowledged, as liquor sales have been skyrocketing in the state. In addition, alcohol represents 20 percent of the state's total revenue, according to local media reports. It would be hard for any government to implement a total prohibition, analysts say.
However, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the state's major opposition party, has promised to implement a total ban on alcohol if it wins state elections next year.