Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Is Congress for pub bharo?


Congress president Sonia Gandhi is reported to have said that she will fight the upcoming national elections on two issues: One concerning the attack on a pub in Mangalore and the other concerning the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The best advice that one can give to her is: Don’t. On both issues, she will pay for her folly. The Muslim community in India will do the greatest good to itself and to its relations with the majority community if it graciously concedes the Ram Janmabhoomi to its Hindu claimants and not stand on prestige. All these years the Muslims have allowed themselves to be exploited by so-called ‘secularists’ and have needlessly alienated themselves from mainstream India, reaping no benefit whichever way. It has done neither the Muslims nor the Hindus any good. The time has come for the Muslims to change their mindset and concede graciously to the Hindus’ claim and thereby win the hearts and souls of their fellow citizens. The Muslims will lose nothing thereby.

On the other hand, they will gain the eternal gratitude of Hindus to whom the Ram Janmabhoomi has tremendous emotional significance. One positive step and that will strengthen Hindu-Muslim unity as never before. To both Muslims and Hindus it will be a win-win situation. By attempting to widen the gulf between the two communities Sonia Gandhi will render immense harm to the country which she professes to serve. A word to the wise should suffice. As for the Mangalore pub controversy, it has been plainly overplayed for political reasons and statements have been made by Congress leaders that call for strong condemnation.

According to Renuka Chowdhury, Women and Child Development Minister there has been “a complete breakdown of law and order in Karnataka”. Nothing of that sort has happened and by making such highly provocative remarks, the Minister has only hurt her own party’s chances at the forthcoming polls. Complete breakdown of law and order? Really? What happened in Mumbai during the jehadi siege? Was it an example of high maintenance of law and order with the blood of a couple of hundred innocent people staining the earth? Mangaloreans can do without the patronage of the likes of Renuka Chowdhury and her boss. Besides, in the matter of young people visiting pubs, is the Minister aware of what is happening right under her nose in the capital?

According to a survey conducted by an NGO, called Campaign Against Drunken Driving (CADD) “nearly 80 per cent of those visiting pubs and bars in the Indian capital are below the age of 25 and that of the under-age population at Delhi’s pubs 67 per cent are below 21 years of age”. It would seem that Delhi’s excise laws ban the sale of liquor to or by anyone below 25 years and if an underage person is caught consuming alcohol, or if the vendor is caught, it could mean a fine of Rs 10,000. The CADD study found the laws ineffective, as nearly 33.9 per cent of those below the age of 16 easily procure alcohol from government–authorised liquor shops, bars and pubs.

According to a press report, the law also prohibits any person below the age of 25 years to be employed at any bar or pub and the offence is punishable with a fine of Rs 50,000 or imprisonment of three months to be levied on the outlet. Says a report in the Free Press Journal: (February 2) “Still nearly 55 per cent of those working as service attendants in bars and restaurants are young boys and girls below the age of 25. The research was conducted from December 2008 to January 2009 among 1,000 youth who go to the pubs and bars. Nearly 85 per cent of the youth surveyed were in the age group of 14-21, even though the legal drinking age is 25 years”.

Can one believe that youngsters between the ages of 14 and 21 visit pubs and that too, in Delhi, where the government is run by the Congress party under the leadership of Sheila Dixit? How many of the youthful pub-patrons have ever been arrested and how many of the pubs have had to pay a fine? And what have Renuka Chowdhury and Sonia Gandhi to say about these revelations? According to the survey, in Delhi, annually about 2,000 youths under age 21 die from motor vehicle crashes, other unintentional injuries, homicides and suicides that involve underage drinking. Prince Singhal founder of CADD is quoted as saying: “Underage drinking is a prelude to drunk driving and thus it is important to curb it in the initial stages, so that it does not end up as a habit among young individuals”.

Another startling fact revealed was that the drinking age in Delhi has gone down from 28 to 19 years since 1990. CADD estimates that in another five to seven years, this figure may come down to 15 years. The survey found that it is not binding for liquor serving outlets or vends to verify the age of the consumer. But the survey found that nearly 44.4 per cent of Class 12 students had consumed alcohol in the survey period. Instead of looking at these facts, Sonia Gandhi and Renuka Chowdhury are planning to use the so-called Mangalore pub incident as a political weapon. They don’t seem to realise what damage they are doing to India by their irresponsible behaviour.

Should we say that there is no law and order in Delhi? Obviously there isn’t and the police look the other way when teenagers visit pubs. We do not have any information on how long these visitors stay at the bar or how much liquor they drink. Parents obviously are either unaware of what is going on or couldn’t care less. One might damn the Shri Ram Sena to one’s heart’s content for using violence, but at least they seem to care enough. At this point in time we have no statistics as to how old the girls serving drinks are and how many teenagers have been attending the Mangalore pub.

According to the CADD survey it is not binding for liquor serving outlets or vends to verify the age of the consumer; that can only encourage the youngsters to take advantage of such a situation. That all this is happening in Delhi and under a Congress administration suggests not only a weak government that does not care for people but a leadership that is engaged more in talk than in action. Before taking up the Mangalore pub issue as a stone to hit at the BJP, Sonia Gandhi would do well to set right matters within her own political jurisdiction. Both Sonia Gandhi and Renuka Chowdhury surely know what the Bible says: Judge not, least ye be judged.

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