A Case for Homemade Alcohol in Kerala

I am pretty sure my dear readers are well aware of the political situation regarding availability of alcohol in Kerala, my home state. Considered one of the prominent states in India with regards to consumption of alcohol, Keralites have been criticized even by the former President of India who said that Kerala is submerged in liquor. But I am tempted to ask – are things so bad in Kerala?

Some Statistics

According to the World Health Organization census of 2010, India is not even on the top 100 highest drinking nations. If I counted the list right, India ranks 118th which is in no way a bad thing especially by the fact that India is the second most populous country in the world. Now what is the status of Kerala? According to the National Sample Survey Office, Kerala ranks 18th in the consumption of alcohol and other habit forming substances. A state ranked 18th in a country that is ranked 118th globally statistically adds up to nothing in the grand scheme of things. I think more reforms should happen in states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Arunachal Pradesh than here.

The Sad State of Affairs

From the lessons we learned from statistics, it is clear that most of the issues that the media and the government is painting for us follows the Malayalam phrase – ഊതി പെരുപ്പിക്കൽ (Oothi Perupikkal) which means “blowing out of proportion”. For little or no reason this subject is brought up in the news to create some kind of a sensationalism to push forward an agenda. And the last time I checked, it has not done anyone any good. I will give a few examples:

  • The Dry Day Nonsense – “Dry Day” is a day that is observed with total abstinence from liquor. Theoretically it should mean no one consumes liquor on that particular day. But is it working? For the past few years Kerala has been observing “Dry Day” on the 1st of every month. That’s great but one should note that the clever people here buy and stock their required alcohol on the previous day itself. Recently a new “Dry Day” has been imposed on Sundays. Has that changed anything? Absolutely not. People are buying and stocking on Saturdays. So what is this game that the government is playing? Creating an impression that it is doing something and in effect doing nothing!
  • Capitalizing on a Non-Issue – Till date I haven’t understood what the anti-alcohol fellows really want. Last day I heard in the news that tourists are coming to Kerala not for drinking but for sight seeing. That may be true, but how many tourist spots are there across the world where alcohol is banned? Not many I guess. I will let the readers Google that for me. Banning liquor altogether or restricting it in unrealistic ways is going to adversely affect the tourism in Kerala which is an excellent source of revenue for the state. The curious aspect of this problem is that a total ban is not going to be implemented in many five star hotels. So what is going on here? Banning the local bars and liquor shops but letting the big fishes run does not seem fair and proper. It looks more like a sinister agenda which the government is liable to explain.
  • Accidents and Crimes – Most people site accidents and rising crime levels on alcohol consumption. I am not sure whether that correlation is correct. Crimes take place due to several factors most of which are poverty, competition, disputes, intolerance, ignorance and plain hatred. Alcohol may aggravate these situations and tendencies but that is not the only factor. A violent and evil person will commit a crime even if he/she is not intoxicated. And is alcohol the only intoxicant? These days even young students in schools are coming up with increasingly fancy methods to intoxicate themselves (including smelling the paper correction liquid) thereby coming under the influence of anti-social elements. Next is the possibility of accidents. For that all I can say is that even sober people cannot drive properly in the roads of Kerala let alone an intoxicated one. I think if the government moves forward with reforms in constructing better roads than wasting time on non-issues, we will have lesser road accidents, drunken or otherwise.

Considering the sad state of affairs, what can be done so that both people and the government are happy?

An Elegant Solution

This is where the requirement of brewing and distilling at home becomes important. There are several countries where brewing and distilling at home is permitted and I think the people of Kerala should adopt that practice and the government should allow the same by making it legal. Of course it should be restricted to only personal use as it is done in the countries where it is legal. It is not only an elegant solution but I think it is the only solution in our current circumstances. The following are some of the advantages of brewing liquor at home:

  • Regulated Drinking – A proper liquor requires time and effort from inception to consumption. It can span from a few days to several years depending on the type of liquor being produced. With all the efforts involved in producing good quality liquor from brewing to distilling to aging in wooden barrels, the producers won’t feel like doing binge drinking which is touted up as a major problem in the state. In fact the person will start respecting his health more and will drink only within the healthy limits as is done in most countries known for drinking.
  • Understanding Scientific Method – An educated person knows that knowledge of chemistry can improve the quality of medicines, food and of course liquor. Creating a better brew will push the person to learn more about the chemistry behind the processes involved thereby giving him a deeper understanding and insights into science. From setting up the apparatus to monitoring progress to making notes about changes and patterns are all part of scientific method and liquor brewing is a fantastic hobby to inspire scientific thinking.
  • Quality at Low Cost – Taxation on liquor is seriously a big problem. And is the liquor sold in Kerala worth the money spent? Certainly not! The “Indian Made Foreign Liquor” is one of the most idiotic liquids I have ever consumed. It tastes bad to say the least and has all sorts of additives that creates the feeling “Why on Earth did I even drink it?” So why bother spending all that money on something which is nothing more than flavor mixed spirit? Buying an imported liquor is not possible for many people. But if they can follow the exact procedure in producing imported liquor at the comfort of their homes, they can have the quality that they desire at a much lower cost. Further, the creative hobby of homebrewing and distilling also lets people customize the process to produce the flavor and feel that they like the most.
  • Solving a Paradox – Wine which contains alcohol anywhere from 8% to 20% is allowed to be made at home. Beer which has only 5% to 6% alcohol is not allowed. That makes no sense. Why can’t I make beer at home when I can make wine?

If government wants to forfeit their revenue made from liquor that is fine with me. But please let people make their own stuff for their own personal use. Even if the government implements a total ban, what is the guarantee that there won’t be an illegal inflow of liquor from outside?

A Caveat

I believe my point has been made clear. Some information I have given in this article are referenced whereas others are my own assumptions and inferences and should be taken as such. But the readers should not misunderstand me. I neither endorse alcoholism nor intend to promote drinking habits among any person from any place in any form. Further, this article should not be taken as a motivation to produce alcohol without permission. Drinking like any other habits should be restricted to people who have attained the age to make their own choices and decisions. However, I couldn’t help but point out the seemingly nonsensical ways by which the current government is creating an issue just to show that they are doing something.

References

Future of NASA and American Space Exploration – An evaluation of Obama’s 2010 Space Policy and Kugler’s Article on Avoiding the end of NASA

Abstract

New guidelines for NASA have been proposed by the United States government considering the exploration, scientific and technological projects for the next few decades. This paper evaluates the key aspects of President Obama’s Space Policy of 2010 and Justin Kugler’s article on how the end of the Space Shuttle Era is not the end of NASA (Kugler 8 Aug 2011) with conclusion on the future of NASA considering the current economic and political scenario.

Space Policy 2010

Image of Obama Space Policy 2010

The Space Policy, 2010 of President Obama is reminiscent of Kennedy’s speech on Urgent National Needs except that the goals mentioned are more ambitious as well as challenging in terms of technology, economy and politics. This policy that aims at reinvigorating US leadership in space has far reaching implications and takes into account the overall multidisciplinary nature of space sciences and technologies. His Civil Space Guidelines (Space Policy 28 June 2010) is particularly attractive in that it sets ambitious human exploration milestones as goals like crewed missions in trans-lunar space by 2025 and to Mars by 2030. The policy’s decision to operate the ISS for another decade and beyond and to seek partnership between NASA and private space agencies and encouraging prize competitions in development of various projects like the “Three New Centennial Challenges”(E. Steitz 13 Jul 2010) of 2010 is excellent and positive.

The major challenges undertaken in this policy worth evaluating are as follows:

  1. Design and build the proposed SLS, heavy lift launch vehicle(Weaver 14 Sep 2011) that is expected to carry the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle in addition to other important cargo, equipments and science experiments to Earth orbit and beyond. This project is a technological challenge that can be achieved only after sufficient funds pour into NASA from the government budget.
  2. Development of orbital debris mitigation/removal technologies as well as collision warning measures through maintaining space object databases and disseminating orbital tracking information to agencies. This can be achieved only through consensus on active debris removal, cooperation to remove objects of other countries, collaboration to accomplish difficult tasks and contributions through cost sharing to engage active debris removal (David 10 Aug 2011.)
  3. Detect, track, catalog and characterize N.E.O to mitigate human hazards from an unexpected impact and also identify potentially resource rich planetary objects(Space Policy 28 Jun 2010.) This currently can be done using the existing technology. However, for unmanned/human exploration of asteroids, development of SLS or any such vehicle is required.

In addition to these major challenges, NASA’s decision to work on projects like land remote sensing, environmental observation and weather and national security via satellite systems makes clear that the new policy is looking forward to an overall development of the entire space arena and paints a picture of a better future for NASA that will help US maintain its technological and political superiority in space. Despite being very promising, as any new policy, it is still prone to political interference and hindrance to progress due to budgetary constraints. The more ambitious plans like the manned mission to an asteroid by 2025 hasn’t yet gained traction among the lawmakers. The latest concerns come from the heightened uncertainty over NASA’s budget and policy priorities as the new vision for the agency is publicized. Though the Congress has mandated the development of Space Launch System and Multipurpose Crew Vehicle, it hasn’t yet provided budget to the mission. Further, they want NASA to do the SLS project at an even greater constrain than the canceled Constellation program which might as well be pushing it on the same path (Kugler 8 Aug 2011.)

Lawmakers overseeing NASA generally retain opposed views on the efforts of White House to turn over core agency functions that includes transportation of astronauts to and from the ISS to commercial rocket and spacecraft suppliers and operators. The report submitted by NASA officials in January 2011 to Capitol Hill argues that it is impossible to build a new rocket and capsule similar to Apollo on the budget and deadline specified by lawmakers. None of the options in the new policy, according to NASA, can fly by 2016 unless a significant increase in the agency’s appropriations is made by the lawmakers (Pasztor 15 Jan 2011.)

It is hence imperative to enforce the guidelines mentioned in Obama’s policy independent of the Congress and with collaboration from the private sector so that appropriations of proper funds can be done to make technological and economic progress in the space sector as envisioned in the policy.

Justin Kugler on Avoiding “the end” of NASA

Image of International Space Station

Justin Kugler sees some of the positive aspects of NASA’s latest policy as well as the current US space scenario which otherwise appears a threat to national security after the end of the shuttle era (Dinerman 1 Aug 2011.) NASA, US government and international partners’ decision to extend the current life of ISS till 2028 (Kugler 8 Aug 2011) despite negative comments from Roscosmos chief Vitaly Davidov about its deorbiting is positive but the possibility of leaving ISS unmanned for sometime after the current astronauts are returned on November 22 due to delays in Soyuz from Roscosmos is not very promising. Phasing out of the space shuttle has indeed created launch issues since US has to currently depend entirely on Russia to get astronauts including American astronauts to the ISS (Leonard 16 Sep 2011) and hence without a new and improved heavy lift launch vehicle and the Multipurpose Crew Vehicle derived from Lockheed Martin’s Orion as described in Obama’s Space Policy 2010, NASA’s own human spaceflight to ISS might be halted for a long time.

The Congress’s decision to prevent squandering of the $100 billion investment in the microgravity lab in view of NASA’s negotiations with CASIS to manage research and invite partners from various streams is a positive political response. However, lack of leadership from Congress and the White House is pulling back on NASA which should currently be engaged in developing new technologies(Kugler 8 Aug 2011.)

Imag eof Constellation Altair Lander

Kugler has rightly criticized both the Bush administration and the Congress for Obama’s cancellation of Constellation program which was underfunded (Achenbach 1 Feb 2011) to make the initial schedule itself and was already en route its ruin before the Obama administration took charge. Kugler is also right about the impending peril of an unhealthy situation in the space arena if Congress continues to stress on the development of SLS and discourages cooperation between the private and public space agencies since competition between the companies will improve low cost technologies that will help NASA and other government space agencies to have access to space. In addition, if the SLS does not materialize, this political stand will become financially risky since neither the vehicle nor advanced technology from the private sector will be built resulting in other space faring nations dominating the space arena (CBS 11 Jul 2011.)

Conclusion

Both Obama’s Space Policy 2010 and Kugler’s criticism of Dinerman’s article (Dinerman 1 Aug 2011) point out two key aspects influential in the space arena viz lack of funding and political interference. The space arena is no longer bipolar but is multipolar with fast growing economies eying space-exploration and/or space resource utilization. It is hence important for NASA and the US government to create new laws that will allow technological development and cooperation between nations as well as public and private sector space agencies.

Image of Soyuz Rocket

The recent crash of the unmanned Russian cargo spacecraft (Wall 1 Sep 2011) indicates that the Soyuz rocket may not be dependable in future. Unfortunately, Soyuz is the only crew-carrying vehicle available and hence it is imperative that with retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet, private American companies should take over the role of Soyuz to take astronauts to the ISS. It is good news that the agency has given money to SpaceX, Boeing, Sierra Nevada and Blue Origin under its Commercial Crew Development program. As discussed by Kugler, the development of crewed vehicles by these private agencies will generate sufficient competition and cooperation between the traditional and new age space agencies to create low cost access to space.

Image of James Webb Space Telescope

Cooperation and joint ventures in space exploration should be the next generation goals of NASA and its partners under the current national economic constraints. Obama’s Space Policy does include international cooperation in space as one of its goals (Space Policy 28 Jun 2010) . However, for reaching the goals described in the Civil Space Guidelines described in Obama’s Space Policy, NASA must increase its budget. The current budget cuts of NASA (K. Mathews 10 Sep 2011) and other impending cuts has essentially jeopardized many projects like the James Webb Telescope and other futuristic Mars sample return spacecraft development. Even the proposed 2012 budget of 18.7 billion dollars (Weaver 14 Feb 2011) may not be sufficient in developing the SLS or the Multipurpose Crew Vehicle while continuing with the existing space science and technology based projects.

Image of Manned Mars Mission

Since NASA cannot expect immediate returns from cutting-edge space exploration for the huge investment they require when compared to production and launching of satellites, private enterprises may not be interested in contributing to cutting-edge space exploration thereby pressurizing the government to bear costs of missions to Moon, Mars and beyond. However, as a democratic nation, the government must appease its taxpayers. America’s national debt is currently close to $15 trillion (Knoller 22 Aug 2011) and annual deficit at over $1 trillion (CBO Aug 2011.) The budget call for billions to develop SLS and MPCV (Leone 12 Sep 2011) is against these numbers. In the midst of this economic debt, it is difficult for the nation to quantify the cost of going to the Moon and Mars.

To conclude, NASA is currently treading on a difficult path with higher goals and equally high economic and political constraints. Considering these constraints, NASA must outsource more components of its various projects or even entire projects to private agencies where immediate financial benefits can be reaped. In cases where the benefits are only long term, international cooperation must be in place. For instance, just like cooperation in orbital debris removal projects, NASA can collaborate with ISRO, CNSA, Roscosmos, ESA and JAXA in trans-lunar and Martian missions since that way, the cost can be shared in addition to the benefits among the participating nations. With privatization and international cooperation, scientific and technological endeavors of NASA will have a bright future.

Bibliography

  1. Kugler, Justin. “”Avoiding “the end” of NASA.”” The Space Review, 8 Aug 2011. Web. 17 Sep 2011.
    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1901/1
  2. “China eyes lead in international space race.”” CBS News, 11 Jul 2011. Web. 17 Sep 2011. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/07/11/scitech/main20078365.shtml
  3. “The Budget and Economic Outlook: An Update.”” Congressional Budget Office, Aug 2011. Web. 18 Sep 2011. http://cbo.gov/ftpdocs/123xx/doc12316/Update_SummaryforWeb.pdf
  4. Achenbach, Joel. “”NASA budget for 2011 eliminates funds for manned lunar missions.”” The Washington Post, 1 Feb 2010. Web. 17 Sep 2011. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2010/01/31/AR2010013101058.html
  5. David, Leonard. “”Space Junk Cleanup Poses Grand Challenge for 21st Century .”” Space. 10 Aug 2011. Web. 17 Sep 2011. http://www.space.com/12602-space-junk-cleanup-grand-challenge-21stcentury.html
  6. Dinerman, Taylor. “”How the End of NASA Affects US National Security.”” Hudson New York, 1 Aug 2011. Web. 17 Sep 2011. http://www.hudson-ny.org/2299/nasa-us-national-security
  7. E. Steitz, David. “”NASA Announces Three New Centennial Challenges.”” NASA. 13 Jul 2010. Web. 17 Sep 2011. http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2010/jul/HQ_10-162_New_Centennial_Challenges.html
  8. K. Matthews, Mark. “”NASA’s smaller programs could be at risk.”” Los Angeles Times, 10 Sep 2011. Web. 17 Sep 2011. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/10/nation/la-na-nasa-budget-20110911
  9. Knoller, Mark. “”National debt has increased $4 trillion under Obama.”” CBS News, 22 Aug 2011. Web. 17 Sep 2011. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20095704-503544.html
  10. Leonard, Peter. “”Soyuz lands safely in Kazakhstan, rattles nerves.”” Forbes, 16 Sep 2011. Web. 17 Sep 2011. http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2011/09/16/science-sci-space-station_8683387.html
  11. Leone, Dan. “”Obama Administration Accused of Sabotaging Space Launch System.”” Space, 12 Sep 2011. Web. 19 Sep 2011. http://www.space.com/12916-obama-nasa-space-launch-systembudget.html
  12. NATIONAL SPACE POLICY of the UNITED STATES of AMERICA. June 28. 2010. 11.
  13. Pasztor, Andy. “”NASA Safety Hurt by Policy Disputes, Report Finds ..”” Wall Street Journal, 15 Jan 2011. Web. 17 Sep 2011. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703959104576082451987770460.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsSecond
  14. Weaver, David, Michael Braukus, J.D Harrington, and Dan Kanigan. “”NASA Announces Design for New Deep Space Exploration System.”” NASA, 14 Sep 2011. Web. 17 Sep 2011. http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/sls/sls1.html
  15. Weaver, David. “”NASA Announces Fiscal Year 2012 Budget .”” NASA, 14 Feb 2011. Web. 17 Sep 2011. http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/feb/HQ_11-041_NASA_Budget.html

An Independent look on Mullaperiyar

The Mullaperiyar Dam

The issue of Mullaperiyar Dam has been alive now for quite some time. The historical background and the intension of the formulators are clear to the people at large. Though it involves versatile technicalities, what I have gathered is that a viable solution can be had to the problem. We should not forget that the dam was built by the British before independence. The agreement between the two states, strengthening its relationship with each other, much water has flown under the dam. When the dam was built, the upper limit of water level was fixed at 120 ft. Then spillways were built for controlling the rise of water level adjacent to the dam. These spillways help the flow of water into the state of Kerala when the water level tends to rise above 120 ft.

Unfortunately, there has been a gradual manipulation done by the neighboring state, wherein they had a tactical approach. The spillways were filled with sand and upon which mortar was used to make it concrete. Thus, the purpose of spillways was defeated and they virtually became defunct. Moreover, on one side of the dam unauthorized wells were constructed through which huge pipes were drawn to elicit water from the dam. The immediate solution to check the rise of water in the dam is to perfect the spillways and make it functional.

This will be possible if efforts are made by both state governments without compromising their bilateral relationships. For this purpose, the central government has to perhaps intervene. I do not ignore the fact that the subject matter is subjudice and the Hon’ble Supreme Court is in seizin of the matter. Immediate steps are necessary to apprise the central government of the factual position so that an international catastrophe can be avoided.

The experts or the committee of experts must be able to tell us a viable solution to overcome the present crisis rather than confusing the people at large. One cannot even imagine the depth of fear and agony the nearby inhabitants are undergoing. Those who are cozy comfortable and residing out of the danger zone may not be equated with those who are likely to be affected by the imminent danger.

Is it not true that our neighboring state has had much more advantages after the dam was built year ago? There is a corollary to the issue i.e. a state, which is really benefitted, must look into the physical safety of the dam and security of the people who are otherwise affected in the event of a calamity. Instead, what we see here is an unscientific approach and an adamant attitude which would wither away all possible avenues to sort out the issue.

Fatal Cracks on the Dam

This can be checked bi-focally. First, is that the central government may lay its hands on a war footing and resolve the issue without compromising the relationship of both the states and at the same time permitting the states to exercise their powers guaranteed by the constitution. Secondly, the Hon’ble Supreme Court may pass stringent orders emphasizing the approach that may be taken by the central government vis-à-vis the approach to be taken by the state governments.

In both these cases, the prime factor is time. If delay occurs in arriving at a viable solution, it may result in a very unpleasant situation or a situation beyond our comprehension. Let us hope for the best!