After coming under severe criticism, the Karnataka government has decided to keep the 21-year minimum age limit for the purchase and consumption of alcohol.
In an unexpected development, the state government published a draft notification on 9 January proposing to bring down the age limit from 21 to 18 for people to purchase and consume alcohol.
It also sought comments and objections to the new proposal.
However, it did not go well as many experts, academicians, health professionals, and parents lashed out at the Karnataka government and demanded that it reconsider the decision.
The officials from the Department of Excise admitted to South First that the proposal was based on the recommendations made by Yashwanth Committee.
Admitting that the department received negative feedback on the proposal, Additional Commissioner for Excise SL Rajendra Prasad told South First: “The government has decided to keep 21 years as the minimum age limit for the purchase and consumption of alcohol.”
He added: “The recommendations were based on the Yashwanth Committee. This committee was set up for the betterment and necessary changes that need to be brought into the department.”
He also said: “We have received many objections and comments on the proposal.” However, he did not disclose the number of objections received on the proposal.
Even BJP MLA and former minister S Suresh Kumar expressed concern over the government’s proposal.
“The government needs to rethink its proposal. It is the opinion of all that this is not a healthy decision,” he tweeted.
ಸರಕಾರ ಈ ಕುರಿತು ಮತ್ತೆ ಯೋಚಿಸುವ ಅಗತ್ಯವಿದೆ.
ಇದು ಆರೋಗ್ಯಕರ ನಿರ್ಧಾರವಲ್ಲ ವೆಂಬುದು ಸಮಾಜದ ಎಲ್ಲ ಹಿತಚಿಂತಕರ ಅಭಿಪ್ರಾಯವಾಗಿದೆ. pic.twitter.com/CvaeEByX4P
— S.Suresh Kumar (@nimmasuresh) January 15, 2023
Criticism from health professionals, activists
After the news broke about the Karnataka government planning to reduce the minimum age for the consumption and purchase of alcohol, health professionals, activists, and parents reprimanded it for making such an unscientific proposal.
Geriatric Society of India Vice-President Dr Anand Ambali told South First: “It is shameful that the government is coming up with such proposals. Deaths related to alcohol consumption are on the rise across the country.”
He added: “Though the sale of alcohol brings huge revenue to the government, it is also spending crores of rupees for the treatment of alcohol addicts. The World Health Organisation has clearly stated that no amount of alcohol is good for health.”
Pointing out the health aspects, Ambali said: “The consumption of alcohol at a young age will have a negative impact. It will deteriorate health and immunity, and lead to poor sexual health. Those who start consuming alcohol at a young age battle for life at the age of 30-45 years.”
He added: “Many youngsters take pride in alcohol consumption. This will not only impact the individual but also their family, who would spend huge amounts on their treatment. Even many deaddiction centres are being shut because of poor outcomes.”
Stating that reducing the age limit would impact the education of the students, Child Rights Trust Director Nagasimha G Rao told South First: “At the age of 18, students will have no earnings as they will still be in college. The easy access to alcohol will impact not just their health but also their education.”
He added: “In many cases, it is being found that the youngsters are consuming alcohol as a solution for depression.”
He welcomed the government’s decision to keep the minimum age limit to 21 years.
Expressing concern, Harish Navalgund, an engineer and resident of Kamakshipalya in Bengaluru, said: “There are many ways for the government to increase their revenue but not at the cost of derailing the bright future of youths.”
The father of two added: “The government has to come out with youth-friendly programmes instead of anti-social proposals. These kinds of proposals are a threat to society.”
No proper vigilance in pubs, resto-bars
Meanwhile, many pubs and resto-bars are said to be violating the norms by allowing those below the age of 21 to consume alcohol.
Most pubs and resto-bars in Bengaluru allow youngsters to consume alcohol without verifying their age, parents and activists told South First.
The officials concerned are barely inspecting or keeping tabs on the pubs and resto-bars, they added.
The parents, experts and activists urged tight vigilance on the bars and restaurants in the city.
“We can find many youngsters below the age group of 18 consuming alcohol in pubs and resto-bars in the city. It is a big concern,” Prabhakar Koppal, a resident of Chamrajpet, told South First.
Meanwhile, Rao told South First: “In reality, the youngsters below the age limit have easy access to pubs and bars as none of them bothers to verify age.”
He added: “There should be a Special Juvenile Vigilance (SJV) team in every police station. It should conduct surprise inspections of the pubs and bars. There is a necessity for the SJV team to monitor all the liquor shops, bars, and restaurants to stop youngsters from falling victim to alcohol.”
Denying the allegations, Prasad said: “We are conducting regular inspections on all the pubs and bars in the city.”
Informed about the allegations of bars and restaurants violating norms and allowing people below the minimum age to consume alcohol, he asked South First to point out such outlets and restaurants. “The authorities concerned are properly inspecting such outlets,” said Prasad.