Bhutanese have a complicated relationship with alcohol. It is so deeply rooted in our culture that even as we know that alcohol is behind most of the social vices we are grappling with today, we cannot pull ourselves to keep it at a distance.
In fact, we have hardly ever made an effort to deal with free-flowing alcohol and related issues in our society. Accepting something just as part of culture could prove to be expensive. Already, alcohol is one of the biggest killers in the country.
It is as if we had to wait for National Commission for Women and Children’s (NCWC) report on violence against children to tell us that alcohol abuse is one of the main drivers of violence against children in Bhutan.
As Bhutanese society is undergoing rapid change, we are having to deal with many scourges of modernity. Drug abuse is a major problem affecting a wide range of population, particularly youth. These are the problems that are getting in the way of the future of many a promising youth of this country.
But the real challenge we face today is that we have let alcohol be easily available. Look at Thimphu, for example. Every next shop is a bar. And we do not have regulations to make sure that children below drinking age are not served alcohol. We might have regulations but that doesn’t do anything unless there is monitoring. Even monitoring will do only half the job because it depends largely on the moral duties of the shopkeepers. Making money could be important but destroying a generation of productive citizens is a crime.
It is time the government sought ways to limit the number of bars and tighten the regulations. Let’s face it: we haven’t done enough. It won’t be a popular move for the government, but it is a right thing to do. We must not flinch from doing what is good for the society even if we risk becoming unpopular.
The sad fact is that as if the government distilleries aren’t producing more than destructive amount of alcohol, we are licensing new ones. Is this how we are tackling issues related with alcohol abuse? We can certainly do better.
There is an urgent need to deal with consumption and availability of alcohol in our society. Alcohol is the biggest killer. It is at the heart of our family and societal problems. It is destroying the future of our children.
Unless the move comes to the highest authorities, our society is in the danger of sinking in this most pathetic scourge of our time – alcoholism.