That caption would make no sense to Indian imbibers long-accustomed to paying through their noses for the distilled nirvana that many insist is bottled only in the Highlands. Oppressive import tariffs now, and the premium smugglers levied when the economy remained bottled-up, have always ensured that Scotch whisky remained the preserve of the well-heeled.
Things are obviously different in Scotland where cheap booze has taken a toll on those with limited incomes ~ heavy drinkers tend to have light wallets ~ and put the health care system to needless strain. Scotland has just introduced a system of minimum pricing, no unit of 10 ml can be sold for less than 50 pence, a move which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said will “reduce deaths from alcohol-related illnesses, reduce hospital admissions and generally reduce the damage the alcohol misuse does to our society.”
While some here might feel she is only endorsing Morarji Desai and Nitish Kumar, the reality is it is another problem that is being addressed ~ heavily discounted prices offered at supermarkets and bottle shops, as opposed to the pubs where the Brits traditionally take a short cut to delight.
Wales and Ireland are likely to follow the Scottish example which Ms Sturgeon hails as “the first country in the world bold and strong enough to introduce minimum unit pricing”. If there has been adverse reaction then international news agencies are ignorant of it, or have opted not to report it.
However, they quote the charity Alcohol Focus Scotland as estimating 58 fewer deaths per year, though a 37-year-old alcoholic said “I don’t think it (minimum pricing) would have put me off, but I certainly would have run out of money quicker”. The new pricing mechanism came into force after a five-year legal battle after seven judges in London unanimously ruled that such unit pricing was “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.”
Things are very different in India where raising the excise duty on alcohol has long been standard practice to boost state revenues. Governments are aware that drinkers guzzle, and like car-owners keep consuming even as they curse price hikes ~ not surprising that petroleum products and alcoholic beverages remain excluded from the GST regime. State governments tenaciously cling to geese that lay golden eggs.
Another major difference between India and the “west” is that alcohol-originating problems are caused not by what is sold across the counter (prices are never cheap) but the “hooch” that is produced illicitly, using items decidedly toxic ~ old car batteries for example.
Reducing health problems could be tackled in the opposite manner than Scotland, making potable alcohol available at affordable prices. But eliminating illicit booze would not go down well with the cops ~ the malkhanas where seized illicit liquor is stored provide them easy, convenient, watering-holes.