The paying public deserves better.
They (the public) paid for their lavish lifestyles. They paid for their needless overseas study junkets to Europe during the summer months. They paid for the security detail to protect them from themselves (the public). They paid for their scams. They paid for their unaccounted money stashed away in tax havens. They paid for the infrastructure that mostly did not get built.
Just when they (the public) felt they could sit back and let political leaders pay some dividend on the investment by making a fool of themselves by making needless, irrational decisions that are likely to be scoffed at by all sections of society and may soon need to be reversed, the rug has rudely been pulled from under their feet.
Throwing caution to the winds, the Supreme Court has decided to take upon itself the mantle of making needless, irrational decisions that are likely to be scoffed at by all sections of society and may soon need to be reversed.
Political leaders are running scared. Never before has there been such an open challenge to their rights. This move of the Supreme Court strikes at their belief system and the core of their existence. Most of them have beaten a hasty path back to their constituencies to convince voters that they will continue to disappoint them with their unfulfilled promises and irrational decisions. The Supreme Court decision should be seen merely as a one-off, an aberration.
In a bold decision that appears to be in response to a petition from no part of society, the Supreme Court has decided that there should be no liquor vends within 500 metres of any national highway. This, apparently, was the missing piece of the jigsaw that will bring down accidents on national highways. Conducting driving tests and antecedent verification before issuance of licences was considered as an alternative solution but, since it appeared to hold promise of solving the problem, it eventually went where such alternatives need to go; the reject pile. Existing liquor vends should be moved a minimum distance of 500 metres from the highways. Moreover, since many of the existing vends appear to have been created after taking due approvals from authorities, they will need to be shifted overnight.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going, they say.
In keeping with the “spirit” of the order, several states have moved to denotify national highways and classify them as “tiny local roads” instead. The Supreme Court has lauded the move and acknowledged that the threat of accidents owing to drivers consuming liquor from vends on roads called national highways does not exist from drivers consuming liquor from vends on roads called tiny local roads, which carry as much traffic as national highways.
Pubs and restaurants falling within the 500 metre zone have, “under the influence” of the order, also moved to shift their entrance gates to beyond the 500 metre line. It is common knowledge based upon detailed studies of human behaviour that once you have moved (or have been moved by someone) a distance of 500 metres after consumption of liquor, the inebriation vanishes and you become, strangely enough, “sober as a judge”.
Hotel Management schools across the country have introduced a new course on teaching students the metric measurement system. Especially for the purpose of measuring a distance of 500 metres. The humble metric measure is enjoying a revival amongst bar owners who have only known the inches to be poured down a glass. Catering students are being taught the difference between national highways and tiny local roads and how to identify each.
The sagacity of the decision can be judged from the fact that India remains one of the most densely populated large nations in the world with, among nations with 100 million plus populations, neighbouring Bangladesh being the only one more densely packed, leaving enough space to move anything upto 500 mm (millimetres; 1 metre = 1000 millimetres) in any direction. Hence, moving a vend 500 metres away can be considered a wise and reasonable decisions, taking liquor vends only closer to schools, homes, religious places, etc. And we know our children and people not barrelling down national highways are mature enough to resist the lure of the drink. In fact, liquor vends can be setup at a distance of 100 metres from schools. QED.
In a strange coincidence, the day this order was announced, a small outlet started coming up close to our building, at a point visible from our terrace. Yesterday the signboards have been put-up. And, lo and behold, we now have a liquor vend right next to our building! But I exaggerate. It is not right next to our building. It is about 100 metres away. From the place in the compound where youngsters play football, a good kick could land the ball, and some chasing youngsters, into the vend. But so what? Are they grown-ups travelling down national highways who will be lured by liquor and cause damage to themselves and others?
It is mainly drivers of vehicles on the national highways that we worry about. Drivers who we have chosen to give licences to drive motorised vehicles ranging from two-wheelers to twenty ton trucks. How can we trust them to resist the lure of liquor.
The Supreme Court means business. It has also banned signboards which started mushrooming along remaining national highways (the ones not converted to tiny local roads), pointing to the nearest liquor vend 501 metres away. It is expected that demonstrating foresight and wisdom borrowed from political leaders, they will issue a pre-emptive order for banning signboards which point the way to the nearest signboard which points the way to the nearest liquor vend.
But the paying public is not happy. They have paid so much money to see politicians make of fool of themselves. They cannot countenance the Supreme Court denying them their fundamental rights.
The Supreme Court, cut to the quick by the spontaneous censure from all over the country, is trying to limit the damage.
They have clarified that liquor is good because it generates a huge amount of revenue for the government. Our fight is not against liquor. Do you not see the rapid expansion of liquor vends near schools, houses and religious places, at least in modern cities like Gurgaon? If we have our way, no citizen of the country will need to travel more than 100 metres in any direction to reach a liquor vend.
But liquor drinking is bad. Our fight is only against drinking liquor. That too by mature adults who have been adjudged fit to be issued driving licences. That is why liquor advertising is banned on all media. We will soon issue orders to ensure that the government introduces a tax to uniformly collect liquor revenue from each citizen so that the state can continue to finance its charitable activities and development agenda, without anyone ever needing to consume it.