Unlike in the West, documentation on the overall effects of alcohol, has been poor in India. Its increasing availability and use in the last decade has also brought myriad problems affecting both the individual and society.
Efforts to tackle the problem have been piecemeal and fragmented resulting in lack of direction and focus.
Production and Distribution
- India is one of the largest producers of alcohol in the world and contributes to 65% of production and nearly 7% of imports into the region. The precise estimate of unrecorded alcohol production is not clearly known.
- It is estimated that the amount of alcohol produced in India during 2006 – 07 may have been approximately 4 million liters. The bulk alcohol produced in India is mainly from sugarcane molasses. Roughly 52% of alcohol produced in India is for potable purpose.
- Among the predominant alcohol products, Indian-made foreign liquor and country liquor account for nearly 60 to 70% of the total beverage alcohol consumed. The traditional home-brewed beverages accounts for a large extend of unrecorded consumption.
- Alcohol production and distribution and sales are primarily a state subject in India. Due to several limitations in the existing excise policies, many of the Indian states produce alcohol far in excess of the stipulated amount.
- The sale, production and distribution follow a complex duty structure varying from state to state. The taxation on imported alcohol also varies between 100% and 500%.
- The alcohol industry contributed an estimated 216 billion in 2003 – 04 to the State exchequer and constituted nearly 90% of the State excise duties. This revenue generation is one of the important sources of revenue for the governments.
- The consumption of alcohol is not directly linked to taxation policies due to the price elasticity of alcohol. The higher taxation on alcohol by successive governments has only been able to generate more revenues for the government and has not affected the drinking patterns which indicate increasing consumption levels.
- The policies promoted till date have been primarily with a view to increasing taxes and not from a public health point of view. In fact the public health importance of alcohol control has been totally neglected in formulating policies and programmes.