Kerala Government – Alcohol Fixes and Border Tiffs

A couple of days into the lockdown that was announced by the Central Government, some strange but not unforeseen factors of the lock-down began to surface. Of all those, Kerala Government had to deal with two extremely ridiculous, but important issues!

Suicides of Alcohol addicts.

Even as the State had announced a lock-down much before the Central Government, the beverage outlets hadn’t been closed down. They did have a lot of pressure to do so. But the Kerala Government tried to keep it open as long as possible not only because it was a major source of revenue, but also because the lack of supply could cause other issues. Keralites are known to be tanker lorries when it comes to consuming alcohol. Hence it shouldn’t have been shocking to see that people were committing suicide for want of alcohol. As of 29th Mar 2020, there were 9 deaths in the state; 7 suicides, 1 cardiac arrest and 1 case of having drunk aftershave lotion (Source:news18).

Following this, the CM Pinarayi Vijayan said that people who were suffering from withdrawal symptoms, could approach government hospitals and obtain a prescription from a doctor stating that the patient was having withdrawal symptoms. This along-with certain other documents could submitted to the excise department, who will then give a pass to the patient. This pass can be shown to the beverage corporation who’ll then provide limited quantities of liquor. Tipplers (someone who often drinks alcohol) were also being urged to approach de-addiction centers. (Source: Business today)

Here is an excerpt from

“According to the Kerala Mental Health Survey, 2018, there are about 50,000 men suffering from alcohol-related problems. Moreover, nearly 10,000 to 15,000 of them may develop serious problems like alcohol withdrawal fits, hallucinations and depression. The number of deaths in a couple of days endorses the projections available from the survey,” said Dr CJ John, a senior psychiatrist.

Indian Medical Association and the Kerala Government Medical Officers Association (KGMOA) are against the idea of prescribing alcohol as it is unscientific. Alcohol isn’t a medicine and a liquor prescription could result in cancellation the Doctor’s license.

Death Due to Closing Down of Borders

The other disturbing issue the Kerala Government had to face was when the Karnataka closed the border on the Kasargod side of Kerala. The move is understandable as the Coronavirus cases in Kasargod have been high. A State has to protect its people.

Mangalore is a medical hub. When you have a city with multiple hospitals and top notch facilities, the neighbouring towns and villages will all be dependant on that city for medical emergencies irrespective of whether the city is in another State. That is how it has been for the residents of Kasargod. Being bordering States, Mangalore depends upon Kasargod for their medical staff and Kasargod depends upon Mangalore for their medical facilities.

When the lock-down was imposed, Karnataka government dumped a mound of mud at the border to stop the vehicles from Kerala. A kidney patient was being treated in a hospital in Kasargod. When his conditional worsened, the hospital discharged him and referred to a hospital in Mangalore. The Karnataka police didn’t let them through and he died on his way back. With each medical emergency, the Karnataka Police didn’t let the ambulances go through and 3 patients succumbed on their way back or soon after, while a woman had to give birth in the ambulance.

The deaths weren’t due to Coronavirus. The deaths were sacrifices so that Coronavirus didn’t spread to anyone in Karnataka. I completely understand why the roads are blocked, but I don’t understand how why we can’t bend rules if we’re discussing a case of life and death! How about letting in only the critical cases through the border? Ensure that they’re isolated (To keep Coronavirus at bay in case they have it), and ive them the treatment they came for (with all the precautions taken by doctors; gear et al). Meanwhile collect their samples and in three days, you’ll know if they have the virus while saving their lives. I am not a government official or a medic. This was an off the top of the head solution and while there maybe flaws here, I know for a fact that a solution can be found instead of just letting people die!

While this is an action Karnataka could have taken in the beginning, after much requests from the part of Kerala CM, an agreement was reached between the two states. Karnataka will let non-Covid patients through the checkpost provided they submit the relevant papers and only one attendant will be given entry with the patient. It certainly is an improvement compared to the earlier scenario.

But it makes me wonder why there’s always a lack of harmony between neighbours. When I look at the South Indian States alone, I keep seeing an underlying hatred between all of them and scenarios like these seem a bit too insensitive to me.

Sources: Economic Times, Indian Express