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Young and drunk: Soon kids will start drinking when 15, some already do

Young and drunk: Soon kids will start drinking when 15, some already do

Author: Bula Devi
Publication: Covert - Fortnightly Magazine
Date: February 16-28, 2009
URL: http://www.covert.co.in/bula.htm

In a well known school in South Delhi, an eleventh standard student who also happens to be the head boy of the school, brought a bottle of alcohol and a bottle of cola to the school. He and his group of friends, including girls [all from educated, well to do families], drank in the classroom and eventually got so drunk that when the teacher came to the class to teach, the girl students, with glazed eyes and flushed faces, started questioning her, instead of the teacher taking them to task. When the matter was taken up with the principal, the head boy's badge was taken away and he along with the others was suspended for a week. Today they are all back in class, and quite unrepentant.

A survey by Campaign Against Drinking and Driving [CADD] over two months - December 2008 and January 2009 - proved that, in Delhi, since 1990 the age of drinking has gone down from 28 to 19 years, and in another five years it will go down further to 15 years. About 96% of the alcohol drunk by 18-21 years old is consumed when the drinker is taking five or more drinks at a time. Nearly 80% occupancy in pubs and bars across the city are by those below 25 years of age, and 67% of the occupants are even below 21 years of age.

The survey says that 33.9% of those below 16 years of age easily procure alcohol from Government authorised liquor vends, bars and pubs. This is a reflection of poor policing, perhaps because, according to Delhi's Deputy Excise Commissioner Sanjeev Ahuja, children below the age of 25 years cannot buy or consume liquor in a public place as per the Punjab Excise Act, 1914 applicable in Delhi.

"We do surprise checks, and if we find any licence holder providing liquor to an underage youth, the licence holder is first issued a notice, and if his reply is not satisfactory, he is fined between Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000 depending on the case," said Ahuja.

The CDD survey says that about 2,000 youth under the age of 21 die from motor vehicle crashes, other than unintentional injuries, homicides, and suicides. But Delhi's Joint Police Commissioner [Traffic] S.N. Srivastav says that in 2008 there were only 16 drunk driving accident cases in which adults were involved, although the number of people caught for drunk driving are much more. "Underage drunk driving cases are practically none and we have made a sustained effort to put a scare in the minds of the people across the city," he claimed.

Criminal lawyer Ramesh Gupta pointed out, "Law cannot prevent drinking alcohol, law can only make it punishable. The moral policing has to come from parents, teachers and media to increase awareness. Law can only be a deterrent."

Educationist Vibha Parthasarathi is of the view that children belonging to parents who have "new values, new mantras of being liberal and friendly to their children" are falling into this trap. There is nothing off limits, parenting for them is more of "let them do what they want". "Too much money without responsibility is the cause. It is like taking a baraat in a helicopter to show how much money one has. Children do not know the difference between a social drink and a drinking binge. A sense of responsibility has to be inculcated in them," she said.

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