Bottom’s Up: Why Kerala Drinks Most Among Indian States

India is surely living up in since the last couple of years. Increased alcohol consumption is the biggest indicator of this. No prizes for guessing the heaviest of drinkers. Among Indian states, the trend of bottom’s up is the highest in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.

Overall statistics is a bit alarming too. According to a survey that was compiled and presented recently, Indian population was studied between 2008 and 2012. The World Health Organization warned showing a startling 11% of the people starting from 15 years of age were among moderate to heavy drinkers.

The per capita consumption of alcohol had increased from 1.6 liters in 2003-2005, to a good 2.2 liters between 2010 and 2012. Young Keralites and Andhrites kept their alcohol flag flying high with heavy alcohol consumption per annum, followed by other states such as Maharashtra and Punjab.

While the global figure stood at 16% overall drinkers, India alone had achieved a percentage of 11% with its heavy and binge drinkers making up for the numbers. In 2010 alone, about 30% of total population celebrated getting high on spirits. About 93% alcohols were consumed in some form of the spirit or the other, and beer added up to a paltry 7% of the total consumption.

Taking these figures seriously, and paying good heed to the warning issued by WHO, Kerala moved towards blanket banning of liquor only to water down the policy later.

According to India’s National Sample Survey Office which collates data and interprets them to understand the problem posed by high consumption of alcohol, there are probably more loopholes than what the naked eye can see. Because NSSO does not take into account the high-end spectrum drinking that happens in social circles, and private bars.

NSSO also attempted bringing together the data from years 2011-2012 where liquor was split into four categories while collating the numbers. They were toddy, country liquor, beer, and foreign/ refined liquor or wine. The rural Indian, on an average consumes around 220 ml of alcohol in some form or the other, making for an annual quantity of 11.4 liters a year.

Toddy is considered the most favourite among this category owing to the fact that it can be accessed easily, and comes in many price brackets that can be afforded by the poorest of the poor. Beer drinking states followed by the ones who preferred ‘phoren’ liquor came later.

Daman and Diu, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Puducherry were among the leading Union Territories in the category which preferred better form of liquor or beer over Toddy. Goa, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka too followed the suit. Karnataka and Kerala are almost vying with each other in this classification category.

Though there are contradicting reports as to which state tops the list, WHO seems to go by its own set of data making Kerala the state which loves its drink or two. But, NSSO seems to give away this most coveted place to Andhra Pradesh making this the biggest consumer of alcohol. During the pre-Telangana period, Andhra seems to have taken to drinking with much passion, downing almost 34.5 litres of liquor per year, against Kerala where people drank only 10.2 liters per year.

The reasons for this are many. Income seems to be the most influencing factor in encouraging the drinking binge. When the upper middle class or the rich are taken into consideration, the number only falls for a brief while before rising by a good 5% in terms of consuming alcohol.

In urban areas, the country liquor doesn’t have many takers unless the place witnesses high migratory labour such as construction workers or labourers who can only afford the cheap liquor after a hard day’s work.

The numbers are alarming given the fact that alcohol contributes to nearly 3.3 million deaths in India, which come under the global percentage of 5.9%.

Though health monitoring agencies have been issuing warnings at regular intervals about alcohol causing hemorrhage, TB, epilepsy and strokes leading to death, the caution seems to have fallen on deaf ears with India holding up its drink around the year.
Image: Thinkstock
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