A report in the Times of India states that in Delhi anyone over the age of 21 can serve drinks at bar and restaurants in the state due to new legislation, but they still cannot legally drink until they turn 25! I am not saying that the validity of this ludicrous law has any real-world implications, but it is amusing when you consider the fact that in India, anyone 18 or older can vote. In addition, women and men can get legally married at the ages of 18 and 21, respectively.
If you are visiting India and are worried about the law, rest assured. No one will ask you your birth-date when you ask for a pint. Businesses don’t care, and the police are happy to look in the other direction. Most Indians don’t have any form of valid identification, and those that do, seldom carry these documents when they go out drinking.
In addition, when it comes to consumption of alcohol, there seems to be no consistency at all. Different states in India have different laws and the minimum drinking age varies anywhere from 18 to 25. From what I can tell, two states have banned the consumption of alcohol completely.
West Bengal is not one of them though. In the state of West Bengal, the Department of Excise licenses, taxes, and regulates the consumption of alcohol. The website of the Department is primarily concerned with providing information to those who want to apply for coveted liquor licenses. I searched long and hard but could find no display of the legal drinking age in West Bengal anywhere on the site.
Curiously, the primary legislation in the state is still the Bengal Excise Act of 1909. This 100 year-old Act from the days of the British Raj dictates alcohol distribution, consumption, and taxation in the state.
Nonetheless, there is a wealth of information on alcohol consumption in West Bengal on the website. Consumption of “intoxicants” increased by an amazing 50% from the 2003-2004 reporting year to 2007-2008.
It is pretty obvious that whatever the laws on drinking might be in the state, people seem to be pouring their drinks fast and furiously!
© 2009-2011, Anirban