Disclaimer: This article does not in any way celebrate or promote the act of consuming alcohol. The thoughts and feelings towards alcohol are the writer’s own. Please stay sober if you must.
“Its been a hard day’s night. Show me the way to the next Whiskey bar.”
If the lyrics of any two songs, by two different artists were to be mixed it would have to be these two (in all drunkenness). The answer to many a hard day’s woes can be found in the depths of a whiskey bottle. And then the fear looms in, hope it’s not a dry day!
What’s with the dry days (not to mention the dry states)? Such questions often arise in the minds of the soberest of us who are willing to change that state of sobriety. So yeah what’s with them?
It’s not that we were a very sober society throughout history. In fact, on the contrary, the Rig Veda mentions the Soma Ras (possibly made of hemp leaves), which Lord Indra would consume before a war, quite extensively. Passages after passages in the Rig Veda praise Soma and its preparation is elaborately mentioned. Also, both are great epics – the Ramayana and Mahabharata make frequent references to the drinking habit. The ancient Sangam texts also give the detailed description of how alcohol was to be prepared from different plants.
Then why now? It seems that the answer to all such questions lies in our Constitution (but of course!). The Indian Constitution consists of a section called Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP). These DPSP consist of all the principles that our founding fathers believed were “Indian” in nature and spirit. These “Indian” principles, however, were good to have but not absolutely necessary (and hence are different from Fundamental Rights). Not necessary – at least at the time of incorporation of the Constitution, possibly because the infant Republic mostly did not have the resources to fulfill them.
The DPSP consists of such principles that were supposed to be a moral obligation on Indian lawmakers. That is whenever the MPs or MLAs would make a new law they will have to cross check that it should not go against any of these principles. If however, we have lawmakers who are enthusiastic about their work, then we have the possibility of laws (acts) that would actually try to fulfill these principles. These include the likes of Right to Education, Right to Work (Partial) etc. Both these among others were erstwhile DPSPs (now Fundamental Rights).
These “principles” in DPSP have certain Gandhian principles (because Gandhiji led our freedom struggle and was also a major social outlook changer). Gandhiji, when he returned from South Africa, realized that India if it is to be independent, the people need to be disciplined. For this, he incorporated strict anti-consumption thought in his writings and sermons. He also felt that the tribals and the Harijans were being exploited and kept under a non-escapable cycle of poverty through alcohol consumption. Besides a lot of women related societal issues could be solved by observing non-consumption as a principle.
Because Gandhian thought is as “Indian” as one can be and because Gandhiji is so important to “Indian” nature, the Constitution framers included non-consumption as part of the DPSP (Article 47). The Article states that Indian lawmakers would strive to make Indian society free of alcohol consumption (except for medicinal purposes). Hence the principle of dry days was set in. They were to be observed on all important and religious days. Since the number of religious festivals has kept on increasing (so have the number of dry days). Some states took this principle a step further and banned alcohol consumption throughout the state (making them dry states).
Afterword: Those who feel dry days are not that big a deal- for the record Delhi NCT has 24 dry days for AY-2018. These are pre-planned ones. Besides the 24, at least 10-12 get added every year through last-minute announcements/elections.