Alcohol: Killing the social malady

We have a very complicated relation with alcohol. We accept alcohol as vital part of our culture. That’s where the real problem stems from.

Many studies have been carried out about alcohol and its impact on the society. Reports have been damning. Yet we could do nothing about it.

A recent RENEW report says that about 70 percent of domestic violence cases are committed under the influence of alcohol. Because we accept alcohol as essential element of our culture, problems related with it are not confined only in certain pockets of the country.

In the rural parts of the country, families struggle to eke out a decent living because much of what they grow is put almost entirely into brewing Ara, Bangchang, or Singchang; it is clear why poverty in the country is largely a rural phenomenon.

Urban centres are no better. In fact, our towns and cities have more alcohol outlets than is necessary. Every second shop is a bar. No wonder our children begin drinking early. Our culture supports early drinking and we have incredible number of wine houses to procure them from. There are a total of 5,407 licensed alcohol outlets in the country, which translates to one outlet for every 98 Bhutanese above the age of 15. Thimphu alone has 944 outlets, closely followed by Chukha and Sarpang.

According to a study, per capita alcohol consumption among Bhutanese adults (above the age of 15) is 8.47 litres against global consumption rate 6.2 litres. Two in five Bhutanese currently drink alcohol and one in five engage in heavy ‘episodic drinking’. This is worrying. Records with the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) and the forensic unit of the national referral hospital in Thimphu show increase in alcohol-related cases of domestic violence.

These facts speak a lot about our society. Alcohol use is also a predisposing factor contributing to teenage pregnancy. According to the national nutrition survey 2015, about 15.9 percent of pregnant women consume alcohol, resulting in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in children. Too, going a study, alcohol aggravates HIV/AIDS epidemic. The spread of HIV/AIDS and increasing suicide rate associated with alcohol consumption can be a serious obstacle to Bhutan’s development.  The burden on the health and the nation’s economy will be huge.

There is an urgent need to address alcohol consumption and related issues in the country. How difficult is it, for instance, to implement an ID check system to reduce consumption rate? Enforcement of laws should be made effective. It is the responsibility of every Bhutanese to keep our children away from alcohol. Issuing licence for alcohol production could be stopped as we have done with outlet licence.

1 reply
    MIGNIEN says:

    Lamentations about result of alcohollism over Bhutan society worth nothing .
    Many journalistic articles quote the result about that problem ; not a day without harsh sentence because of ill treatement on women and children ; without forgetting outbreak family and abandonned children .
    It is necessary to implement drastic measure ; but we will be unaware that alcohol addiction will be never root out everywhere in the world !

    Three examples quoted below :

    Ancient habits in remote area of rural land consist to drink alcohol as soon they get up to have strength before the hard labor in the lands . during my young years in a farm , i knew what hard labor is .

    During ritual festivity , the famous tsechu , among the poor population attending the feast , alcohol is drunk , even by wife , i had been witness of that habit when i was amxng them and out of the tourist group !

    ( I do not forget that in France , during Century 19 and beginning 20’s , in French britain district ( west of France ) , peasant families in remote farms had habits to make drinking alcohol to the youths -apple one – before they started to school to avoid coldness during the long way . So the teachers complained they cannot begin the course up to late in the morning because the falling asleep children a bit drunk)

    Although the consumption of alcohol in France is about 13.5 litters annually by each adult nowadays ; but much more in the 1950’s.

    For instance some figures (Wikipédia encyclopedia)

    Consumption in Europe countries per capita per year espressed in litters

    Lituania 17.5

    Czekoslovaquia 16.2

    Ireland 14.4

    France 14.4

    Russia 44 !!! This is the first death rate due to crude and false alcohol !!!

    Bhutan : Adult average 6.2 . Youh above 15 Y.O. 8.47 !!!!

    When walking in Thimphu , at the end of the day , we can see sometimes getting out of bars teenagers staging and smelling alcohol .

    The main question is : where does this alcohol come from ?

    In the remote villages it is impossible to stop this hand made production , tell my Bhutanese friends ; because of the omerta ( keep quiet about those things ) , nobody can know the reality of production figures.

    In private meeting , customs or policeman only can proceed to investigation in case of complaints they must be filled out with breathalyser in alcohol .

    In the other hand , the only possibility of authorities is to control trade places of selling alcohol : bars , discotheques , shopkeepers ; managing drink licenses ( 5407 licensed outlet today) come to close when some traders are found guilty .

    Consequently may be increase unenmployed men and women .

    Police can use denunciation of battered woman and children . But this can increse desertion of marital home and abandonned of children.

    So applied sanction is very delicate ; judges are very attentive to the consaquence of their decision ;

    But the investigation about researching alcohol must be done by customs body depending only of the Ministry of finance and not from the Ministry of industry as in France ; Because custom officers get used with taxations rules so they can compare bills in connexion of real stockks of drinks ; and , i suppose , they have larger rights to resarch during investigation more than plolicemen. They can investigate any homes , warehouse , shops , even private room if they have letters rogator from the Court .

    Of course , the GVT must raise very highly taxes over hard alcohol ( in France over 18 Degree ) ; but consequently , he must avoid fraud and corruption by high penalties ; but it must avoid duty free shop to be in equality with other airports to avoid disavantage competition .

    The questions are
    1/ Are customs number custom officer to much over each custom entry in the country and to investigate ?
    2/ Have they digital devices up to date to build data files to include informations helping them to investigate?

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