The new liquor policy put forward by the UDF led government, now backed by the High Court that directed the government to make it into law, has sparked mixed responses.
The liquor policy envisaged by the government hopes to turn Kerala into an alcohol free state in ten years through step by step process, the first step being the non renewal of licenses of the closed 418 bars. The bars were asked to shut down due to poor infrastructure and only those attached to five star hotels would be open from the next fiscal. The High Court has directed the government to convert the new policy into a law with immediate effect sealing all the loopholes since the liquor mafia may strive to topple it anytime. According to the new strategy, the licenses of remaining 312 bars would also not be renewed. The unexpected and stringent policy has sparked debates and discourses all over and the appeal of the bar owners to reopen the closed bars was turned down by the state government after an audit report indicated the poor standard of the bars.
The anti liquor movement, spearheaded by KPCC President V M Sudheeran, who has been advocating total liquor prohibition from the beginning even created factionalism in Congress. He faced criticisms from the party with some senior leaders accusing Sudheeran’s stand as extreme and “impractical” and backing the liquor lobby while the others extending support to Sudheeran and Chandy. The government, now, has given a time limit till September 17 to close all the bars. The new policy, in a state like Kerala with a high alcohol consumption rate, if made into law, could lead to major social changes. With thousands suffering from addiction related problems, it would be happily welcomed by the housewives and also the Christian and Muslim minorities. Despite an increased risk of illegal liquor flowing into the state and chances of incurring high pressure on the already staggering economy, the government has taken a bold and commendable move in this regard. Therefore along with ensuring that proper steps are taken to effectuate the law by the government, a strong backing by the people of the society is also required.