Why there is a Dry Day in India on Gandhi Jayanti (October 2)?

Gandhi Jayanti, which falls on October 2nd every year has been declared a Dry Day by the Government of India. On this day Alcohol and related consumable products are not sold across the retail outlet across India.

Dry Days are specific days when the sale of alcohol is not permitted. Most of the Indian states observe these days on major national festivals/occasions such as Republic Day (January 26), Independence Day (August 15) and Gandhi Jayanti (October 2). Dry days are also observed on and around voting days. Casino licensees also stop operation of casinos on October 2.

The question arises, why there is a Dry Day on Gandhi Jayanti. Gandhi never said donot drink on my Birthday.Did he?

According to historic references, Mahatma Gandhi abstained from all alcoholic drinks. He also urged others to follow his footsteps. But what he had urged was total abstinence from the sale and consumption of Liquor, not for a Day in a year. Moreover, Dry Day doesnot prevent people from Drinking. People who have stocked liquor in advance can consume it fearlessly. Only the sale is prohibited. To the utter shock, this sale is even allowed in Gentlemen’s Club. This was not something Mahatma Gandhi had envisioned for India.

In an article in Harijan, he wrote “I ask you to accept my evidence that the country as a whole is sick of the drink curse. Those unfortunate men who have become slaves to the habit require to be helped against themselves. Some of them even ask to be helped”.

Liquor, as we say, is an invention of the devil. In Islam it is said that when Satan began to beguile men and women he dangled before them the “red water”. I have seen in so many cases that liquor has not only robbed men of their money but of their reason, they have for the time being forgotten the distinction between wife and mother, lawful and unlawful. I have seen drunken barristers wallowing in gutters carried home by the police. I have found on two occasions captains of steamers so dead drunk as to be incapable of keeping charge of their boats till they came to their senses. For both flesh-meats and liquor the sovereign rule is “We must not live in order to eat and drink and be merry, but eat and drink in order to make our bodies temples of God and use them for service of man.”, he wrote in his book India’s Case for Swaraj, P. 403.

“Nothing but ruin stares a nation in the face that is prey to the drink habit. History records that empires have been destroyed through that habit. We have it in India that the great community to which Shri Krishna belonged was ruined by that habit. This monstrous evil was undoubtedly one of the contributory factors in the fall of Rome”.

According to latest reports, some 13 percent of Indians are daily consumers and about half of them are heavy to hazardous drinkers. Apart from the variety of health hazards that habitual drinkers are exposed to, alcohol is also the leading cause for loss of productivity in the country apart from financial stress, poverty, violence, and abuse.

An average Indian from the rural belt is estimated to consume about 220 ml of alcohol a week totaling up to about 11.4 litres a year, while in urban areas, the average is pegged at about 5 litres a year.

If we really want to fulfill Mahatma Gandhi’s Dreams, observing an annual Dry Day hardly helps. The Government must enforce total ban on sale of Liquor. While some may cite the huge taxation received from the sale of alcohol, we often forget that Mahatma Gandhi was totally against such tax money which was derived from sale of intoxicants.

“It is criminal to spend the income from the sale of intoxicants on the education of the nation’s children or other public services. The government must overcome the temptation of using such revenue for nation-building purposes. Experience has shown that the moral and physical gain of the abstainer more than makes up for the loss of this tainted revenue. If we eradicate the evil, we will easily find other ways and means of increasing the nation’s income”. Mahatma Gandhi wrote this in his mouthpiece Harijan on 21 September 1947.

Why there is a Dry Day on Gandhi Jayanti? Either there should be year long ban on sale of Alcohol like in states like Gujarat, Nagaland and more recently Kerala, or there should be no ban at all.