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Nine tipplers commit suicide, Kerala mulls resuming supply on prescription

Kerala Government hinted that it might supply liquor to addicted residents if they can produce a doctor’s prescription, the suggestion was opposed by the medical professionals.

Updated: Mar 29, 2020 23:19 IST

By HT Correspondents, Hindustan Times Thiruvananthapuram / Bangalore

The liquor shops in Kerala were closed after criticism from opposition and since crowds gathered at liquor shops (HT Photo/Vivek Nair)

Five tipplers committed suicide on Saturday in Kerala and four in Karnataka apparently due to non-availability of liquor. After the three-week lockdown was announced on March 24, all commercial establishments including liquor shops have been shut down. The state governments have been flooded with reports of people threatening with suicides, violent bouts and withdrawal symptoms from many areas.

For instance, a 40-year old hotel employee in Bhalki town of Bidar district in Karnataka committed suicide by jumping into a well in the early hours of Sunday as he could not get his regular supply of alcohol over the last one week. Originally from Kundapur taluk of Udupi, Bhaskar worked as a cook in a hotel and apparently had been showing withdrawal symptoms since the lockdown began. A case has been registered in the matter.

Similarly in Kadaba taluk of Dakshina Kannada district, two labourers who worked as rubber tappers, Tommy and Thomas, also killed themselves as they couldn’t get their regular supply of liqour.

Speaking to HT on phone, the SHO of Kadaba police station said “They had been working in rubber estates as tappers and both originally hailed from Kollam of Kerala. While one has committed suicide in a nearby pond, the other one hung himself in his room on Saturday morning. We have registered cases in both instances. Both had been apparently agitated over the non-availability of liquor.

In another similar case, a watchman called Umesh Hadpad committed suicide by hanging himself in Hosur taluk of Hubli district, again due to non-availability of liqour on Saturday. Another 60-year-old person called Hanumantharayappa of Madhugiri taluk, Tumkur district, slit his throat on Sunday as he was disappointed with the non-availability of alcohol. He has been admitted to a hospital and is said to be recovering. Meanwhile, a Bangalore resident V Manjunath has written a letter to the CM of Karnataka B S Yediyurappa seeking the reopening of liqour stores and promising to maintain social distance while making purchases.

Meanwhile, Kerala Government hinted that it might supply liquor to addicted residents if they can produce a doctor’s prescription proving their addiction. Worried about the suicides, the Kerala government has opened more de-addiction counters but this has failed to address tipplers’ woes. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said the government was planning to provide minimum liquor to heavy drinkers if they produce prescriptions to avert suicides and other incidents of tipplers hurting themselves. But his suggestion hasn’t gone down well with the medical fraternity. Both the government doctors and Indian Medical Association (Kerala chapter) on Sunday came down heavily on the government’s proposed move.

“It is a dangerous situation. Tipplers will soon flood the government hospitals for certificates. We can’t prescribe liquor for any ills and it is against our medical ethics. Already hospitals are in the thick of Covid threat. We can’t invite more trouble at this juncture,” said Kerala Government Medical Officers (KGMOA) state president Joseph Chacko.

The KGMOA has written a letter to Chief Minister requesting him not to take such a decision. The IMA Kerala unit has also criticised the government’s move saying it will create more troubles than solve any. “How can doctors prescribe liquor? We have all along been discouraging people not to take it. Instead of treating them, the government is pushing them towards addiction,” said a senior IMA functionary.

It is estimated that Kerala alone has 10 lakh regular drinkers, 2 lakh occasional ones and 50,000 addicted to the brew. Sensing trouble, earlier the government had exempted liquor from the lockdown and pushed it to the list of essentials inviting much criticism from the opposition and prohibition activists.

While announcing the opening of outlets, run by the state beverages corporation, the government had set guidelines - no winding queues, customers will have to cover their faces properly, only five people in the queue at a time and they will have to keep a distance of one metre between them. But these instructions had gone for a toss when shutters opened.

When chorus for closure strengthened, the Kerala government caved in. But after the closure the government explored many other options like online supply and restricted supply but all fell flat in view of the strict lockdown restrictions.

In Karnataka, the ruling BJP’s MLC Ayyanur Manjunath empathised with the tipplers saying that he had heard of the hardships that they were facing because of the lack of availability of their favourite drink. On Saturday, speaking to the media in Shivamoga, Manjunath said, “Without availability of liqour, I am told that several of those habituated to it are behaving in all kinds of manner at their homes. It is unfortunate.”

In the early hours of Saturday, miscreants had broken into a liqour shop near RTO office at Gabbur Cross in old Hubballi and made away with liqour worth more than Rs 60,000. Bendigeri police have registered a case and are said to be investigating.


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