The dilemma of relaxing Goa's liquor licensing rules

State government's notification of liquor licensing rule needs to take into consideration social responsibility even as it pursues revenue
KEEP A SAFE DISTANCE: The State government's move to allow liquor shops within the radius of 100-metres of schools and religious buildings needs an afterthought.
KEEP A SAFE DISTANCE: The State government's move to allow liquor shops within the radius of 100-metres of schools and religious buildings needs an afterthought.Photo: Gomantak Times

In a controversial move that has sparked heated debates across Goa, the state government has notified a change in the Goa Excise Duty Rules, 1964, allowing liquor shops to operate within a 100-metre radius of schools, colleges, and religious institutions. This relaxation, however, comes with a condition: the licence fees for these shops will be doubled compared to those in unrestricted areas. While the government argues that this will help shore up the state's coffers, the decision raises significant concerns that merit close examination.

Balancing Revenue Generation and Social Responsibility

At the heart of this issue is the dilemma of balancing state revenue generation with social responsibility. The government's need for increased revenue to meet growing expenditures is understandable. However, the method chosen—relaxing restrictions on liquor shops near sensitive areas—poses risks to public health and societal values.

At the heart of this issue is the dilemma of balancing state revenue generation with social responsibility. The government's need for increased revenue to meet growing expenditures is understandable.

One can argue that the government is prioritizing financial gain over the well-being of its citizens. On the one hand, we may say that if one wants liquor one can get it from anywhere. Still, by making alcohol more accessible to students and worshippers, the state may inadvertently encourage higher consumption rates, especially among vulnerable populations like minors and the economically disadvantaged. This could lead to an increase in alcohol-related problems, such as addiction, health issues, and social disturbances, which would ultimately strain public resources and undermine social stability.

Impact on Minors and Educational Environments

One of the most significant concerns revolves around the impact on minors and educational environments. Schools and colleges are meant to be safe spaces for learning and development, free from the influences of alcohol and other vices. The proximity of liquor shops to these institutions threatens this sanctity. It is like troubling the trouble (Don't trouble the trouble, unless the trouble, troubles you).

KEEP A SAFE DISTANCE: The State government's move to allow liquor shops within the radius of 100-metres of schools and religious buildings needs an afterthought.
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Alcohol exposure can have detrimental effects on young people, including impaired judgment, academic performance, and an increased likelihood of engaging in risky behaviours. The presence of liquor shops near schools could normalize alcohol consumption for students, making it more likely for them to experiment with drinking at a young age. This not only affects their immediate health and safety but also has long-term implications for their development and future prospects.

Respect for Religious Sentiments

Religious institutions play a crucial role in the social and cultural fabric of Goa. They are places of worship, reflection, and community gathering. Allowing liquor shops to operate near these sacred spaces can be seen as a sign of disrespect and disregard for religious sentiments. However, I notice that there are liquor shops already existing within close proximity of the religious institutions, which actually should have not been given that many religious traditions advocate for abstinence from alcohol and view its consumption as morally wrong.

Religious institutions play a crucial role in the social and cultural fabric of Goa. They are places of worship, reflection, and community gathering. Allowing liquor shops to operate near these sacred spaces can be seen as a sign of disrespect and disregard for religious sentiments.

The decision to permit liquor shops in close proximity to places of worship could be perceived as an affront to these beliefs, potentially leading to social unrest and a loss of trust in the government. It raises the question of whether economic benefits should trump respect for religious and cultural values.

Public Health Considerations

From a public health perspective, the relaxation of liquor licensing rules is problematic. Increased access to alcohol is associated with higher rates of alcohol consumption and related harms, including liver disease, mental health issues, accidents, and violence. The decision to allow more liquor shops in restricted zones could exacerbate these issues, particularly in communities already struggling with alcohol abuse.

KEEP A SAFE DISTANCE: The State government's move to allow liquor shops within the radius of 100-metres of schools and religious buildings needs an afterthought.
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Ethically, the government has a duty to protect the health and well-being of its citizens. Facilitating easier access to alcohol, especially in areas frequented by young people and religious congregants, contradicts this responsibility. The potential public health costs, including increased healthcare expenditure and loss of productivity, could far outweigh the additional revenue generated from higher licence fees.

Legal and Administrative Concerns

The new rules also introduce legal and administrative challenges. The requirement for the Excise Commissioner to obtain government approval before issuing licences in restricted zones adds a layer of bureaucracy that could lead to delays and corruption. This raises questions about the fairness and transparency of the licensing process.

The new rules also introduce legal and administrative challenges. The requirement for the Excise Commissioner to obtain government approval before issuing licences in restricted zones adds a layer of bureaucracy that could lead to delays and corruption.

Moreover, the inconsistency in regulations—whereby some areas have stricter controls on alcohol sales than others—could undermine the effectiveness of public policies aimed at controlling alcohol consumption. It creates a scenario where the enforcement of rules becomes uneven, potentially leading to legal disputes and challenges.

Moral Responsibility of the Government

The ethical dilemma extends to the moral responsibility of the government. As a governing body, the state must act in the best interest of its citizens, particularly the most vulnerable. This includes protecting minors from harmful influences and respecting the cultural and religious values of the community.

KEEP A SAFE DISTANCE: The State government's move to allow liquor shops within the radius of 100-metres of schools and religious buildings needs an afterthought.
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By prioritizing revenue over these responsibilities, the government risks eroding public trust and confidence. Citizens may perceive the move as a sign that the government is willing to compromise on ethical principles for financial gain. This could lead to a broader sense of disillusionment and disengagement from the political process.

Finding a Balance

To address these serious concerns, the government must find a balance between revenue generation and social responsibility. One potential solution is to explore alternative sources of revenue that do not carry the same ethical and social risks. This could include increasing taxes on luxury goods, improving tax collection efficiency, or investing in sustainable tourism and other industries.

One potential solution is to explore alternative sources of revenue that do not carry the same ethical and social risks.

Additionally, if the government insists on proceeding with the relaxation, it should implement strict regulations and monitoring mechanisms to resolve the potential harm. This could include limiting the number of licences issued in restricted zones, imposing stringent penalties for violations, and investing in public health campaigns to raise awareness about the dangers of alcohol consumption.

Conclusion

The relaxation of the Goa Excise Duty Rules to allow liquor shops near schools and religious institutions presents a complex ethical dilemma. While the move aims to boost state revenue, it raises significant concerns about public health, social responsibility, and respect for cultural values. The government must carefully weigh these factors and consider alternative approaches that do not compromise the well-being and values of its citizens. Only by doing so can it ensure that its policies align with both economic goals and ethical principles.

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