Andhra Pradesh’s next Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy is set to be sworn in on May 30 and with that, there will be a focus on one of Jagan’s big promises – phased prohibition of alcohol, which he aims to complete by the time his tenure ends.

Jagan has also reiterated that he is firm on his promise and will seek votes only after confining the sale of alcohol to 5-star hotels in the state. Jana Chaitanya Vedika, a civil society group that works on different social problems, has been tasked with coming up with a report, based on which a policy can be framed. This is expected to be submitted next week.

Speaking to #KhabarLive, the organisation’s president V Lakshmana Reddy said that the models implemented by the states of Gujarat, Bihar and Mizoram – all of whom have imposed prohibition – are being looked at.

“Prohibition will be undertaken in three phases. In the first phase, there will be a complete ban on belt shops and shops that sell liquor near the state and national highways and near schools,” Lakshmana told #KhabarLive, “We will be setting up de-addiction centres as part of the campaign.

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In the second phase, we will be reducing the number of shops and will also continue the campaign about the shortcomings of alcoholism. By the third phase, only 5-star hotels will be allowed to sell alcohol.”

Jana Chaitanya Vedika said that a coordinated prohibition drive carried out with the Prohibition and Excise Department, the police and Revenue Department, as well as the people, can yield results.

According to Lakshman, 7% of the state’s five crore populace is addicted to some alcoholic beverage. Dismissing doubts over the policy’s implementation, he said, “Bihar, which is comparatively backward, is successfully enforcing this and is seeing positive results.”

Lakshmana added that one of the suggestions that could be made is that the state-run AP Beverages Corporation take over retailing alcohol. According to Lakshman, alcohol should only be sold in particular quantities in select stores and such a step will reduce alcoholism and the manufacture of illicit liquor.

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“If the government starts alcohol selling the way Tamil Nadu, Delhi, and Kerala do, alcohol will not be loosely available, which in turn will reduce the making of illicit alcohol since the government itself manufactures the alcohol,” he said.

“Shutting down of belt shops will also help reduce the manufacturing of illicit liquor,” he added.

On the other hand, the policy’s viability is also under question. Post the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, the residual state, which now has a revenue deficit of over Rs 16,000 crore, may find it difficult to find sources of income. Lakshman, however, believes that phase-wise prohibition will not drastically affect the state’s revenue.

“The amount of money which is being spent will lead to expenditure on productive things, which will also bring taxes. Besides, productivity will increase across sectors. The expenditure on the health sector will also decrease as many health issues arise because of alcoholism.”

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Lakshmana, a former Economics lecturer, said that prohibition requires rigorous mental preparation of the people, which can only be done through proper medical care and counselling through de-addiction centres.

Dr Indla Ramasubba Reddy, one of the psychiatrists contributing to the report, said that he is looking at the psychological aspects of the policy and safe practices of de-addiction.

“If there is no prior preparation and treatment at de-addiction centres, patients will experience withdrawal symptoms such as lack of coordination, delirium, and mental health issues,” he said. For this, the doctor suggested that the government set up regional and district-wise de-addiction centres.

“Besides making sure private liquor shops are shut down phase-wise, the government must simultaneously set up de-addiction centres in each district or in each region, with adequate staff including a psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, social worker and nursing set up. Otherwise, merely prohibiting alcohol without bothering about de-addiction would result in failure,” Dr Indla added. #KhabarLive