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Beyond Preposterous


Politicians look for any opportunity to embarrass governments, but sometimes they carry it too far even for the most gullible to believe. It is true that the deaths caused by drinking poisonous illicit liquor comprise a horrific tragedy, but to cast it in the light of caste politics is atrocious, to say the least. Leader of the Opposition Indira Hridayesh did exactly that in the Vidhan Sabha when she claimed that the tragedy was aggravated by the fact that most of the victims belonged to the Scheduled Castes – as though ‘General Category’ lives mattered less. The same politically tinted approach has been carried further by former Chief Minister Harish Rawat, who has demanded not just compensation of Rs 10 lakhs for each affected family, but also government jobs for them.
Such an approach poses serious questions about the motives of politicians and their understanding of issues. Buying and consuming illicit liquor is basically a criminal act. It is criminal because the liquor is manufactured illegally, does not meet regulatory standards enforced by the government, and has not been taxed. It is illegal because of the very reason that the present furore is all about – it can poison one. Imagine if someone were to demand compensation and a government job for the kin of someone killed while attempting a bank robbery, particularly as that person belonged to the Scheduled Castes!
Of course, there is an argument for providing compensation on humanitarian grounds, because the families of such alcoholics are doubly the victims. However, this does not reduce the culpability of those who habitually break the law to get a cheap drink. This aid can only be similar to that provided to helpless people of other kind, such as those struck by natural disasters like cyclones, etc. Out of turn government jobs are given when some heroic act above and beyond the call of duty is performed.
The politicians might argue that this is recompense for government failing in its job of enforcing the law – in this case curbing the illicit liquor trade. This is a difficult case to make, as the general conditions in which the system functions need also to be factored in. Somebody could take this to court in some kind of class action suit, but no government would plead guilty just because Harish Rawat demanded it! It is like suing the government for failing to ensure one wears a helmet, when one suffers injuries to the head in an accident. The thick-skinned politicians, however, care little about how idiotic they might sound, as long as they can smell some votes in it.