Caste, Conservative, Colonial, and State Paternalism in India's Alcohol Policies




Alcohol consumption in India is governed by social and moral codes and religious norms, stratified by caste and gender, and controlled by state policies. Indian alcohol policy today consists of measures ranging from high taxation to strict prohibition across different states. Our article examines whether the Western state paternalistic framework is adequate to explain the alcohol policies of India. We conduct a critical reading of texts on socio-cultural and political history of alcohol consumption, taxation, and regulation in India, and study their influence on contemporary alcohol policies of Indian states. A central theme presented in this paper is that India’s complex history, with social institutions of caste, religious conservatism, regional politics and colonialism, has created a unique complex of experiences related to alcohol, and argues for a greater alignment of Western paternalistic frameworks with Indian socio-political context. Broadly, we argue that state paternalism should be understood beyond the national and state politics of the present, and factor in the path-dependency of socio-cultural and political history of the state being examined.


Alcohol Policy, Alcohol taxation, Paternalism, Caste Paternalism, Colonial Paternalism

Authors Bio

Shivakumar Jolad, FLAME University

Shivakumar Jolad is an Associate Professor of Public Policy at FLAME University, Pune. Prof. Shivakumar’s primary research interests are Data analytics, Education policy, and Human development. He studies the structural challenges faced by the government schools and examines ways to reorganize school system for better functionality. In recent years, he has worked on drain of enrollment in government schools in Karnataka, school consolidation, Right to Education, and learning level crisis.

Chaitanya Ravi, FLAME University

Chaitanya Ravi is Assistant Professor and Chair-Public Policy  at FLAME University. His primary research interests lie at the intersection of energy policy, climate policy, and international relations. He has a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Public Policy from George Mason University where he was a Presidential Scholar from 2007-2010. His doctoral dissertation was a technological history of the debate over the US-India nuclear cooperation agreement. A revised version of the dissertation was published as a book (A Debate to Remember-The US-India Nuclear Deal) by the Oxford University Press-India.


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