Prashant Dayal, Ahmedabad: If one wishes to drink liquor in Gujarat legally, he/she will have to tell the government which religion they practice. No kidding! Column 4 in the application form to be submitted to get a health permit to purchase liquor from government approved stores ask for the applicant’s religion, despite there being no direct connection between liquor consumption and a person’s religious leaning.

According to state government figures, there are 70,000 people holding health permits which allow them to purchase and consume liquor legally in Gujarat. Until recently, the government had stopped issuing fresh permits and renewing the old ones as the prohibition law was undergoing amendments. After the amended laws were announced, new permit applications began to be accepted in March 2018. But the form had a column that specifically asked people to disclose which religion they practiced or followed. It is fact that about 99 percent of the 70,000 permit holders in the state are Hindus, yet the Gujarat government wants you to write it down specifically in the application. The government has not given any explanation to why this question is there on the form.

Another interesting thing that one can note from the applications for the permits is that it’s only those persons who are financially well-off hold the health permits to consume liquor. According to liquor permit norms, the applicant must have a monthly income of at least Rs 25,000 and a proof of it in the form of income tax return has to be submitted. If not a salaried person, the applicant must own at least 5 bighas of land and proof of it has to be submitted. A health permit is given to a person who is physically or mentally unwell and consumption of liquor in specifies measure will provide relief or solve their medical condition. So does it mean only the rich and moneyed people are suffering from a medical condition that compels them to consume liquor? Which means a poor person, who is actually suffering from a medical condition that requires him to have liquor, will never be able to purchase and consume liquor legally in Gujarat.

Seems like the Gujarat government is only interested in letting the rich and the influential to drink away legally. And now its column seeking the information of the applicant of his/her religion is baffling.