Nepal’s Maoist lead government has decided to curb unrestricted sale of alcohol in country. Starting Tuesday November 18th, businesses will be allowed to sell alcohol from 10 a.m to 10 p.m only and will have to check for proof of age (18 or older). They will also have to get a liquor license and will be permitted to sell alcohol in designated areas within the store.
For a society that has been very liberal about drinking, this move is sure to some eye brows. Until now Nepal did not have a legal drinking age or any system to regulate liquor sale. If you had the permit to open a store you could sell alcohol, anytime any day and to anyone who is willing to pay.
As a result, alcoholism has spread across the country. Along with health risks and financial ruin, it has contributed to rise in domestic violence and fractured families. As I mentioned earlier, Nepalese society is very liberal about drinking. It is taken as a harmless social exercise. There is no stigma attached to drinking, unless you find yourself drunk on the streets and homeless. Then it becomes a problem.
In villages around Nepal, you can find numerous tiny shacks that serve as local watering holes, filled with men-young and old. The crowd gets thicker as evening wears on. Family bread winners willingly part away with hard earned money for the next high. Surprisingly, majority of patrons at these shanty watering holes are poor, with very little education who work minimum wage jobs. Alcohol is taking away the little they have-financially, not to mention the damage to their health and to the family.
Educated, middle class city dwellers in Kathmandu or any other major city in the country are not doing any better resisting the temptation. Investing in a bar in Kathmandu is probably the best business decision a Nepali business owner could make. You will turn a profit-people are that eager to drink. Another disturbing part of the alcoholism problem in Nepal is that every year more and more young people are getting sucked into it.
Among college going youngsters, the number of those who drink is rising every year. This is true even among girls. Traditionally, drinking for Nepali women was a taboo. Now, the young crowd sees it as a sign of being “modern”. A leading Nepali language weekly even ran a long report recently essentially celebrating women actors and celebrities who were “brave” enough to drink or get drunk in public. You cannot get more
laissez faire than this.
In this scenario, the government’s decision to control alcohol sales in the country, as I see it, is a welcome sign. If implemented properly, it will help contain underage drinking, unrestricted sales and also add to the tax revenue. But the effort should not stop here, more needs to be done to battle alcohol’s ill effects in Nepal.
The public should demand more investment in programs to help alcoholics and their families recover. Private donors and the government could jointly establish rehabilitation facilities for alcoholics; launch nationwide awareness campaign to share information about the effects alcohol has on ones health, finances and family and about the dangers of drunk driving.
Nepalese government has taken a step in rights direction, now it is the public’s turn. It is time for the Nepalese to take alcohol seriously-it is a drug and addictive. So please drink responsibly.
Previously published at UPI Asia Online and Nepal Abroad.