If you want women’s safety in society, it can never be achieved if alcohol is freely available all over the place.

Voices Tuesday, June 10, 2014 - 05:30
Anisha Sheth | The News Minute | June 10, 2014 |  Recently in Goa, Art of Living Founder Sri Sri Ravishankar said that alcohol must be banned across the country. The News Minute emailed him a list of questions on his views about alcohol, teetotalling and violence. Of the eight questions emailed to him, Mr. Ravishankar did not answer the last two. Below is the interview in full, and the two questions that were unanswered: In this report, you are quoted as saying that alcohol should be banned in the whole of India. Even in Gujarat, whose example you quote, alcohol is available underground, just not publicly. This is where the statement was published: Ban Alcohol in Goa, Just Like In Gujarat: World Spiritual Leader Sri Sri Ravi Shanker A ban should be applicable in India. Of course, alcohol and drugs are sold underground in India. Illegal slaughter houses are coming up in India. You can’t legalize drugs because they are sold underground. Illegal things keep happening in the country. You cannot just make all those activities legal. Therefore, it is not the right logic to say “it will be anyway sold underground so why not we sell it openly”. Just compare it with drugs or smoking how they are injurious to health.  There was a time when smoking was a norm of the day. Smoking was never banned/ prohibited anywhere. In every airplane, each seat had an ashtray in it meaning, “smoking is a way of life”. But today, we are done with that. Nobody smokes in the aero-plane and it has improved the health of the people to a great extent. Similarly alcohol needs to be banned so that it is not freely available. In a way, a ban on something, increases curiosity about the banned object and therefore more people are tempted to try it. There should be a strict enforcement. Is a complete ban on alcohol necessary? There is the view that people do have the right to drink and that not all people who consume alcohol engage in illegal activities or violence.  Alcohol consumption in India has increased three times in just a couple of years, this is alarming. For people in the low income group, it is such a menace. 99% of the crimes against women have happened under the influence of alcohol. If you want women’s safety in society, it can never be achieved if alcohol is freely available all over the place. Secondly, poverty elimination cannot be achieved until you put a stop on the liquor sale. 60% of a common man’s income goes off into just alcohol. Alcohol is one of the way to keep people in perennial poverty and violence. When something like alcohol brings ill health, poverty and violence, it disturbs the peace of family, happiness of family and peace of society. Why should it not be banned? We must see what happens when you ban it for some time. Consumption of alcoholic drinks is a part of many cultures in India. It is a part of their festivals and celebrations. Historical evidence shows also alcohol imports as far back as 1,000 years. Alcohol is also referred to in Indian mythological texts as soma-rasa. So then, is alcohol consumption not a cultural activity? I would say people can make anything part of the festival, Beating themselves or beating others. One may say, even drugs or opium is part of the culture, that Shiva also had bhang (marijuana) . These excuses should not prevent you from bringing the much needed ban. There will also be a fringe element in the society who would not obey any laws or rules. That does not mean we should not have laws at all because a few elements do not obey laws.. We can’t say that a few people anyway drive on the right side, they don’t keep left, so why should we impose a rule that everybody should drive on the left? We would be inviting more disaster. Because a miniscule population refuses to obey any laws, that does not mean we remove all the laws. There is no logic. People do whatever they want to do and they put it in the name of religion or God to justify themselves. All those who are into alcohol and drugs, look at their faces, they are not in ecstasy or filled with joy. In fact it is the other way around, there is no joy on an alcoholics face. That joy and innocence which one is born with has been washed out. So alcoholism, or any type of drug addiction, are the result of repeated experience, or association of a particular sense with the object of sense. I see people who smoke Marijuana or Afeem (Opium). Look at their faces- there is no joy, no vibrancy, no radiance and they have no aura. If you go to a Kumbh Mela, you will find a lot of sadhus who smoke Hookah, Charas, Opium, but this is far from anything you would call spiritual. They are completely oblivious of everything else in the world. This is not the sign of enlightenment. An addiction or compulsion can never be a sign of mukti (liberation). Somarasa is not alcohol, it’s not fermented. Soma rasa is something which our brain generates when we are in deep meditation. Soma is a plant and has nothing to do with alcohol. Why do you advocate teetotalling?  Teetotalling is healthy physically, mentally, spiritually and socially. There is a saying in Sanskrit, “Kavya Shastra Vinodena Kalo Gacchati Dheematam”. It means, an intelligent person spends his time in knowledge, music, literature, science, and in bringing people together. But the foolish always enjoy spending their time indulging in addictions (vyasanam), altercations and fights. All these recreational drugs just destroy your body. It will temporarily give you a little high state that just takes you off from the mundane to a seemingly subtle feeling. Drinking alcohol ruins both, your health and your wealth.  In a video uploaded on your YouTube channel in 2012, you say “You start as a social drinking, and slowly it becomes a personal menace”. What do you mean by personal menace? Could you elaborate? This is a link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQjUpeanZxM Life is very complex, worries do come in life. Friendships break, jobs are lost, losses happen in the business. Such pressures are common these days. Today’s environment puts a lot of demands, one becomes stressed and worried. If you are used to social drinking that’s when you start drinking like a fish. When you are tense you want to drink more to get relief from that tension. Instead of finding solution for your problem you want to run away from the problem by consuming alcohol and slowly you get addicted to it. It doesn’t take much time for a social drinker to become an addict. And that’s the reason I would say this addiction can cause a personal menace. In the same video, you also say that it is a matter of pride to be able to say no to social drinking? This implies that there is something wrong with drinking.  There is evidence to show correlation between drinking and violence, but there are different types of violence (domestic, social, wars, armed conflict, personal aggression etc) and the causes for each are multi-dimensional. Causes of violence are also influenced by many socio-cultural and socio-economic factors. How will a ban on alcohol affect any of these types of violence, when even in cases of domestic violence, a person need not be inebriated to beat his wife or children? Could you respond to this?

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