A stronger tooth for reissuance of Bar Licenses, adopt temperance movement

The ban on issuance of bar licenses in 2010 was put to reduce alcohol consumption in the country – and there was also the overriding health priority. We can’t say alcohol consumption is a culture and tradition of Bhutan alone, it is only good to say alcohol is the world’s oldest drug, so it has no significant place in our communities. With the moratorium put on the issuance of bar licenses – we were confronted with a flurry of issues, the worst was the mushrooming of the black market. The business of hiring and leasing out bar licenses went haywire, rampant with a lot of people paying hefty charges for the same, if issued, this cost would not stand in the equation while it was also seen as an opportunity for business snatched for few as a Bhutanese citizen. Fast forward to 10 years, the purpose of the ban is seen defeated – there was more harm than good. In 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 3 million deaths each year resulted from alcohol use, accounting for 5.3 per cent of all deaths globally, and 13.5 per cent of deaths among people aged 20–39 years are alcohol-attributed – while in Bhutan, alcohol is a top killer, 100 people die in a year with alcohol-related diseases and about 70 per cent domestic violence is attributed to alcohol consumption. Even before 2010, there were significant campaigns against alcohol consumption, the government is planning no different today, to institute a flawless campaign against alcohol consumption. The question is, will it be stronger than before but how? As far a layman can see, there is no middle way to alcohol consumption and leading campaigns against alcohol consumption, it will be the toughest battle to strike a balance. But, as we are looking at ways to issue bar licenses, we must gather knowledge to revise and strategize policies. As the hiring of a license is a crime, fronting, the law itself punishing defaulters under section 284 (g) of Penal Code of Bhutan is not strong, a petty misdemeanour and subsequent leading to the cancellation of license, whereas, a better law should sentence defaulters under non-compoundable, so that a defaulter cannot pay in lieu of the prison terms. Another way could be issuing licenses through a lucky-dip system and issue licenses in a gap of three to five years. The government must use the mass media to campaign against alcohol consumption, it has an edge over campaigns that were led a decade ago. We can also follow the famous ‘temperance movement’ that has been adopted by many countries across the globe. The temperance movement is a social movement against the consumption of alcoholic beverages. It criticizes alcohol intoxication or promotes complete abstinence from alcohol (teetotalism), and its leaders emphasize alcohol's negative effects on people's health, personalities and family lives. To a developing nation, the idea of alcohol consumption must be dealt with properly because alcohol could hamper the soul of the country and hinder the performance of professionals. We only have human resources, if it is compromised, our downfall as a country is guaranteed. As much as putting a ban on issuing bar licenses, meaning greater access to alcohol and that the policy for alcohol is always a double-edged sword. If the government is not sure about the end results, it should call for longer discussion periods.