And history of drinking in Tamil society — starting from Sangam times: A R Venkatachalapathy’s piece is a must-read:
Europeans have their first drinks in public and when tipsy move into the confines of their homes; Tamils, on the other hand, drink under cover and once drunk are out on the streets rolling in the gutter with scarcely a vestment on them, or so C.N Annadurai once observed with characteristic insight. Historically, societies across the world have consumed alcohol. But, following Annadurai, we can draw the conclusion that societies handle drink in their own way. As the groundswell of anti-liquor sentiment gains support across Tamil Nadu, we need to understand the history of drinking in Tamil society if we are to succeed in the battle with the bottle.
Here is the bottmline:
Yet, the call for total prohibition is misplaced. Its champions little realise that the social and economic costs might actually be higher. Banning liquor in the cultural context of a globalising India is not an option. The moral argument against drinking simply doesn’t work. Its killjoy attitude recalls what Macaulay said about the Puritan objection to animal-baiting: they objected not because it caused pain to the animals but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.
The state, in consultation with civil society, needs to work out a plan to contain the genie that is out of the bottle. Regulation, overseen by civil society, should be accompanied by a campaign of education. The anti-tobacco campaign and the polio-eradication programme can teach us much. As demanded by some peasant groups, the state ought to seriously consider legalising toddy tapping.