The Chandy government recently came forward with the bold move of imposing a new liquor policy with the aim of making kerala a liquor free state within 10 years.
Spearheaded by Sudheeran, the policy if implemented into law, would witness the closure of 730 bars attached to the hotels below five star categories as a first step followed by a total liquor prohibition by 2013. According to the new policy, only five star hotels in kerala, can serve liquor. There are 23 in the state at present. The High Court had asked the government to come up with a new liquor policy and submit report by August 26. As soon as he took over as KPCC Chief, Sudheeran has been organizing the anti-liquor campaign insisting that the 418 bars closed in the state due to poor infrastructure should not be reopened. Sudheeran’s tough stand has prompted UDF to take the decision. Indian Union Muslim League and Kerala Congress (M) backed the decision. The Catholic Church and Muslim organizations also welcomed the government move towards total prohibition. Sudheeran had sought the co-operation and support of the government as well as the people to carry out the policy in the same manner in which the UDF received support for formulating the policy.
The government has ensured that the rights of the toddy workers would be protected. Schemes for the rehabilitation of employees currently working in the bars would be implemented as a part of safeguarding their interests. A five percent cess would also be imposed on all the liquor sold and the money would go into a corpus fund set aside for running anti-liquor campaigns and for educating the ill-effects of liquor. The government has also urged the people to contribute a day’s income to a new fund named as the Kerala Alcohol Education Research Rehabilitation Compensation Fund to be used for such activities. Through these activities, the government hopes to cut down the alarming effects of liquor on people.
The liquor lobby would not approve of the latest decision of total prohibition and would try to hinder the process. The bar issue has also created factionalism in Congress. Leaders supporting Chandy and Sudheeran have joined them while other senior leaders in the Party backed the liquor lobby. Since kerala has the highest per capita consumption of liquor in the country at 8.3 litres, it would face a loss of Rs 8,000 crore due to the prohibition which is more than one-third of the state government's annual plan outlay. The new ban would therefore put more pressure on the already staggering economy. Total liquor prohibition in a state like Kerala is tough and risky since the scarcity would lead to the illegal spirit flowing into the state. Chandy’s move to achieve a “dry state” in the coming years is commendable. But how successful the government would be in effectuating the ban is yet to be seen. A collective effort from the government as well as the people would be essential to successfully implement and sustain the new ban.