Temperence - a forgotten factor in poverty alleviation
Many attempts have been made by the state and non political
organisations to reduce the levels of poverty in our country. The
efficacy and coverage of such efforts get minimized due to the
uncontrolled drinking habit of our men folk in the rural areas and the
poverty pockets in urban centers. This factor has not been addressed in
any desirable manner by our politicians and/or the development workers.
Go to any rural village on the day of the so-called Samurdhi Advance
is given. You will find quite a number of men - fathers and brothers of
poor families who are recipients of state aid - smelling of liquor.
Occasionally you may find one or two fallen on the wayside.
This situation is also prevalent in the plantation estates especially
on pay days and ‘advance’ days.
Rural development programmes and small business development
programmes have helped rural families to generate additional income.
Though the enhanced incomes are not very high, they can help the
marginalized families to raise their living standards gradually if the
supplemented incomes are not fritted away by the drinking, smoking and
gambling habits of the men folk.
Rural poverty surveys, family counsellors, development workers and
religious organisations have indicated the disastrous ways in which
drinking has devastated some of the poverty stricken families they have
tried to help.
Drinking and smoking, sometimes combined with drug addiction have
nullified their onerous efforts in attempting to give such families a
better lease of life and getting them to the mainstream of development.
Inmates in drug rehabilitation centers and prisons who have brought
misery on themselves as well as their family members due to drinking,
smoking and drug addiction relate stories depicting how those bad habits
were innocently introduced to them and how such practices led them and
their families to misery.
It is a matter that should immediately be considered most seriously
and urgently by the state and the development institutions if poverty
alleviation programmes are to achieve their expected goals.
Addiction to liquor, cigarettes and drugs ruin the health of the
addicts. They also affect the health and well-being of the families. The
literature that is devoted to the derogatory effects of liquor,
cigarettes and the misuse of drugs in vast and easily accessible to
The ill-effects of passive smoking on children and non smokers have
been well documented.
Recent research has shown that drinking etc., affects even the
fetuses developing within the wombs of the wives of those addicted to
drinking, smoking and drugs. Health hazards relating to these bad baits
Effects on health lead to the degradation of the rural labour force.
When the viscious circle starts it leads to indebtedness, social
disruption, crime, higher levels of morbidity, unemployment and many
other factors that destroy a nation’s economy.
The main factors that cause these disturbing features among the rural
folk are ignorance and low level skills in money management.
They have little or no access to people or institutions that can
guide them to lead better lives conserving their health, energy and
A good example is what happens at the illicit ‘bookies’ found in all
nooks and corners in urban and rural areas. The poor men who come to bet
their place bets of a rupee or fifty cents (i.e. half a rupee).
A wealthy man who places a bet of ten rupees will get Rs. 100 if he
wins a double (10x10 = 100). The poor man will get only one rupee for
his bet of one rupee (1X1 - 10) or twenty five cents for his bet of
fifty cents (1/2x1/2=1/4) even if he wins a double.
Trying to emulating the more prosperous gamblers the poor men fritter
away their little income hoping for windfalls that never come their way.
Arrest and rehabilitation is what happens to drug addicts.
But what about the thousands of poor drinking and smoking men folk in
the rural villages and estates who are unwittingly causing misery to
themselves and their families? NGOs and the CBOs operating in the rural
areas and the state institutions have a major role to play in arresting
this situation if the poverty alleviation programmes of the Government
are to achieve their expected results.