6 October 2014
Men gather for class in Navachaithanya, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center established in 1991 by the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Irinjalakuda, in Kerala. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
Al Jazeera recently published this video, calling attention to Kerala’s high rates of alcohol abuse:
In the July 2005 issue of ONE, we shined a spotlight on this issue, and on one institution the Syro-Malabar Church created to help address this problem:
Kerala has the highest consumption of alcohol per capita in the country (about 20 percent of Indians drink alcohol, and of that number 5 percent are alcoholics, reported The Hindustan Times last year). Each year, the state consumes 2.2 gallons of liquor per capita, about three times the national rate, according to India’s Outlook magazine.
“In Kerala, people tend to start drinking once they are 18 years old, which is the legal age for being able to purchase liquor,” said Father Titus Kattuparambil, a Syro-Malabar priest of the Eparchy of Irinjalakuda and assistant director of Navachaithanya.
“Among the bad cases, you’ll see people who earn about three dollars a day, and they’ll blow two dollars of that on alcohol.”
Both national and local governments have acknowledged the problem of alcoholism, and alcohol advertising is illegal. Kerala’s state government also funds several detoxification centers at public hospitals. But at the same time, Father Titus pointed out, the government in Kerala — as in other Indian states — draws revenue from liquor taxes and therefore has a fiscal disincentive to curb alcohol consumption.
Nonetheless, in 1996 the state government banned the consumption of arrack, a potent liquor made from fermented palm sap (and not to be confused with the arak liquor of the Arab world). The government thought the ban on arrack, which is much stronger than toddy, would help curb alcoholism. The prohibition, however, only encouraged illegal traffic and production. Hundreds of Keralites have been killed or blinded from drinking bad batches of home-brewed arrack. And alcohol consumption continues to rise.
It has largely been left to religious organizations and NGOs to treat Kerala’s alcoholics.
“Alcohol has always been a problem here, it’s not just recently,” said Syro-Malabar Bishop James Pazhayattil of the Eparchy of Irinjalakuda. “Several years ago, people approached me about the problem in our community and we started Navachaithanya.” Since then, the center has treated more than 8,000 men for alcoholism or drug addiction, though alcohol is by far the area’s larger problem.
Read the rest here.
Tags: India Kerala Health Care Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Alcoholism