A month after the Delhi government first expressed its wish to reduce the drinking age from 25 to 21, Community Against Drunk Driving, a leading NGO working in the field held consultations with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and submitted series of recommendations.
Prince Singhal, Co-founder and campaigner initiator of the CADD submitted in its report compiled with the help of Delhi Police and National Crime Records Bureau which said that “seeking 21 years as standard age of consumption of alcohol across India would make enforcement, monitoring, awareness and prevention of underage drink driving easier. 25 years limit is an archaic law as one is allowed to drive and vote at 18 years and marry at 21”.
The survey found that 89.8 percent boys and 64.6 percent girls drink alcohol before 18.Echoing the long-standing demand to bring down the age of drinking, Delhi Tourism Minister Kapil Mishra had during a meeting with restaurant owners on September 25 come out in support of reduction of age limit.
“Meeting NGOs is a different issue but the government however is yet to take a decision”, a source in the government said.
Describing the current policy on the age of drinking as "impractical" and unrealistic", Mishra had said this was resulting in harassment of both consumers and owners of restaurants and bars.
"When I looked at the list of states, I found Delhi as one of the few who have stuck to 25 years. Many BJP-ruled states too have adopted 21 years as the drinking age," the minister claimed making a political point to set-up a counter attack to any possibility of criticism on the matter from opponents.
Mishra had said that if National Restaurants Association of India (NRAI) makes the demand as part of a report on recommendations sought by them, then the tourism department will take up the matter with the government. "Currently this is my opinion on the subject, but if NRAI makes the demand officially then I will take up the matter with the government and explore possibilities," he said.
According to Singhal’s document, annually over 1,500 people are killed on the roads of the national capital. Besides a structured commission or regulatory body to be headed by the chief minister, the NGO has suggested a separate committee to reduce dependence on police department to enforce the Delhi excise law.
Singhal said the chief minister acknowledged the immediate need to address the four Es -- (Education, Enforcement, Engineering and Environment) -- of road safety to prevent drunken driving and curb underage drinking.
“To successfully Implement lowering the age to 21 years and to check underage drinking and drunk driving the Delhi Government would need to have a more structured commission/ regulatory body headed by the hon. Chief Minister, which could be Delhi Commission to prevent underage drinking and drunk driving .The above body would also look into the various aspects and of drunk driving as well and also address the multiple issues which need to be tackled to bring down drunk driving deaths”, said CADD.
“Such a body would help to bring in the necessary social change both in terms of drinking pattern and drunk driving collectively and positively addressing the key issues relating to the following-- Drunk driving laws and age legislation, enforcement review, excise policy awareness and education, public opinion and research, Victim support, the degree of accountability of all concerned departments”, said the NGO.