It looks like more birds will fall than expected for Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s aim as he announced the cancellation of licence of non-five star bars and to close down the Beverage Corporation outlets by ten per cent each year as part of UDF government’s epoch plan to go for a total prohibition of alcohol in the State by the next ten years.
The massive clampdown of the alcohol availability through the proclamation in Kerala, a state that has the highest per capita consumption of alcohol in India, shines as one among the elaborate achievements of the Chief Minister. If his success in putting an end to the bar-license controversy, which shook the state government, can be counted as one, then his ability to make the partymen stand by his decision would be a definite second.
He could prove his political-prowess and cunningness through the last-minute tactic through which he completely outshined KPCC President V M Sudheeran, whose stern stand for the permanent closure of the 418 bars made him a favourite of the moral Kerala. This dramatic decision has also helped the Chief Minister to keep in check the disputes that had risen among the factions. The political observers say that the move would provide him with an advantage of choosing a suitable for the KPCC chair next time.
And, there is nothing much of a surprise for the odd thoughts within the party concerning the unbelievable pace of having reached a decision in the bar matter.
Keeping apart the internal politics in the government proclamation, that the move to close down 730 liquor bars, including the working 312 ones and the closed ones, and in addition the decision to deny the functioning of the alcohol outlets by declaring Sundays as dry days will surely be welcomed by the public and anti-liquor organizations of Kerala.
The Chief Minister’s package has also made sure that the new policy will not affect the traditional toddy industry and the well-being of the toddy tappers, which the opposition party might hold as a possible problem in implementing the ban. At the same time, the toddy shops will be given permit only after considering the number of the coconut palms, toddy and the workers.
The Chief Minister has also given a word that the workers in the bar would get financial help, including bank loans for finding self-employment. The point is, there is no chance for the bar workers to go jobless when 30 lakh migrant labourers are working in Kerala on above average wages.
The real blow of the liquor-ban policy has affected the liquor contractors and alcohol addicts. The contractors would try all their ploys to break the ban. They had already decided to take the matter to the court. A strict vigil by anti-liquor organizations and the KPCC President who valiantly fought against within and outside the party to keep the 418 bars shut is inevitable in this case. Otherwise, this package might have the unfortunate plight of A K Anthony’s “liquor-ban” which was a big hit only in the beginning.
The decision to retain the license of just 16 five–star bars have really taken its beat on the alcohol addicts--sadly, their numbers are considerably increasing day by day. Reprimanding and shunning is not what they deserve, affective awareness and rehabilitation is what is necessary in their case. The government has started a new scheme “Punarjani” for their rehabilitation sake. The government plans to use one per cent of the total turnover from Bevco for the scheme and the Chief Minister has called for every employed citizen to donate their one-day salary towards this cause. This demand rightly asks for a good support.
As the new policy is all hyped about, there is the looming anxiety of fake alcohol and resultant poisonous alcohol disasters, the government and the public should work together to take necessary steps to curb this danger. Even in Gujarat where there is a full liquor-ban, the prevalent illegal sale of fake alcohol should be seriously noted.
The alcohol-ban policy that works out in phases would surely achieve its ultimate aim if the public and the government take the pledge to save the Keralite generation which starts the alcohol consumption from the tender age of 13 and thereby creating a harmonious atmosphere for their private and social lives.