Alcohol use and its consequences in South India: Views from a marginalised tribal population
Alcohol consumption in India is disproportionately higher among poorer and socially marginalised groups, notably Scheduled Tribes (STs). We lack an understanding of STs own views with regard to alcohol, which is important for implementing appropriate interventions. This study was undertaken with the Paniyas (a previously enslaved ST) in a rural community in Kerala, South India. The study, nested in a participatory poverty and health assessment (PPHA). PPHA aims to enable marginalized groups to define, describe, analyze, and express their own perceptions through a combination of qualitative methods and participatory approaches (e.g. participatory mapping and ranking exercises). We worked with 5 Paniya colonies between January and June 2008. Alcohol is viewed as a problem among the Paniyas who reported that consumption is increasing, notably among younger men. Alcohol is easily available in licensed shops and is produced illicitly in some colonies. There is evidence that local employers are using alcohol to attract Paniyas for work. Male alcohol consumption is associated with a range of social and economic consequences that are rooted in historical oppression and social discrimination. Future research should examine the views of alcohol use among a variety of marginalised groups in developing countries and the different policy options available for these populations. In addition, there is a need for studies that untangle the potential linkages between both historical and current exploitation of marginalized populations and alcohol use.