Sunday, August 17, 2014
Importing Alcohol Harm Via Diplomats And Big Alcohol...Suneel Vatsyayan
In India, alcohol is not as common as in the Western world (remember: Europe is the region in the world that consumes alcohol most heavily.). Alcohol in India is a controlled and luxury item unlike packaged water or juice. But also India is burdened by alcohol harm and therefore we advocate for better regulations on local and state level as well as for a national alcohol policy.
Some regulations are in place already. For instance regulations concerning labelling and packaging. The bottle and package design gives the alcohol product a deceptive identity instead of introducing the customer to the ingredients honestly. Alcoholic beverages are not classified as single ingredient foods and so the manufacturer in foreign countries needs to follow the labelling requirement as per “The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India” ( http://www.fssai.gov.in/) (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011.
Recently this measure has drawn attention because there has been a shortage of imported liquor in India as liquor consignments got stuck at Indian customs since packaging and labelling was not consistent with our FSSAI regulations. The law has been in place since 2011. But foreign liquor producers have taken the Indian law lightly, not really been proper in following its stipulations and are now feeling the ire of improved enforcement.
In order to fill the gap between supply and demand of imported liquor, staff of Foreign Embassies in India is selling their diplomatic concessional liquor through Indian bootleggers for extra income. I think it is an appalling act of disrespect for Indian regulations and the right and mandate of our government to protect public health and social welfare.
Similar reports come out of our neighbouring country Pakistan with different reasons, where staff of diplomatic missions of several smaller nations is involved in selling liquor in cities like Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore.
In another political development, the Indian Government is planning to freeze duty-free import of alcohol and food for the U.S. diplomatic staff. Duty on alcohol being imported to India currently stands at 150%, before the individual states add their tariffs. External Affairs Ministry Government of India ordered US mission to shut cafes, gym, and salon – and cracks down on duty-free alcohol. The US commissary, which sells duty-free liquor, wine and exotic foreign goods at cheap prices, is favoured by many Western diplomats.
These examples are clear signs that alcohol has no place in politics; like other workplaces also the political life should remain alcohol free and I think it is important to protect the principle that tax-payer money should not subsidise the alcohol consumption of diplomats. Alcohol intake by diplomatic staff clearly has a negative impact on our society, spreading a harmful Western alcohol culture. Foreign Embassies need to respect the local culture and law.
The Indian Government’s move to enforce the rules that existed in the rule book is welcome and timely. Obviously, Indian consumers have a right to take an informed choice even if the liquor is imported from developed nations. Nada India network members fully support the enforcement of the law on labelling on liquor imported from other countries to India.
When self-regulation is shown not to be effective, like in these cases, the Government should intervene effectively with regulation. Alcohol advertising and sponsorship should be banned and other marketing practices should be strictly regulated – like labelling and product design. Big Alcohol corporations that seek to import their harmful products into India are failing in complying with laws and regulations and therefore the government must ensure that marketing practices are respecting Indian law, that they are honest and truthful and don’t deceit consumers.
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