The government’s new liquor policy has been a topic of debate in the state since the day of its announcement almost four months ago.
The government has announced a total liquor prohibition in the coming years and declared Sundays ‘dry’ days. All the bars below the prescribed infrastructural standard were to be shut down as per the rule and only five star hotel bars were permitted to function. The campaign, spearheaded by Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Sudheeran and equally backed by Chief Minister Chandy was highly acclaimed by the people particularly the women. The government had gone ahead with its decision despite all the odds getting a huge support from the people as well as various political parties. But now the turn of things signal a disappointing but expected scenario in the state. The government has now diluted its policy, citing ‘some practical reasons’ that were necessary and said that it would proceed with the prohibition policy but in a staggered manner. The decision to make Sunday a dry day has been dropped and the wine and beer licenses would be given to the closed 418 bars in the state. Fresh bar licenses would not be issued to three and four star hotels. Going by the newly amended policy, liquor will soon be available on Sundays and the clubs would continue to serve liquor.
The heavy pressure from the liquor lobby and the tourism sector has pressurized the government to take the latest move. The new changes were made based on the study conducted by the labour and tourism secretaries that the new liquor policy would adversely affect the flourishing hospitality sector in the state. Several jobless bar workers had committed suicide after the new policy was announced and the Chief Minister said that the “pleas of the hotel and bar workers who were rendered jobless” should be considered. The Opposition denounced the move saying that it was a move ‘to bail out’ Finance Minister, K M Mani, who is currently facing graft charges. The state vigilance is investigating the case.
Kerala has the highest per capita liquor consumption in the country bringing in huge revenues for the state. It would heavily affect the state landing it in deep economical crisis. Therefore the policy of total prohibition would be impractical and bootless. But now the latest move is seen as the victory of the hugely powerful liquor lobby that rules the state as well as its politics. Chandy’s decision, despite a strong opposition from Sudheeran, makes it plainly evident that he has moved ahead with his motives backed by his allies putting on the reins on Sudheeran at the same time.