The controversial liquor policy of the State government received a setback on Thursday with the Supreme Court dismissing the appeal to stay the Kerala High Court order granting licenses to 10 bar hotels in the state.
The apex Court also rendered the policy impractical questioning the logic behind categorizing the bar hotels into five-star, four-star and three-star for issuing liquor licenses. Liquor is allowed to be served in five-star hotel bars as well as the Beverages Corporation outlets. The state government decided to close all the bars in the state except the five star ones as a part of its new liquor policy, according to which a total liquor prohibition is aimed to be achieved in ten years. Around 418 bars were forced shut down in last April. Bar owners in the state approached the Court challenging the government decision saying that it was discriminatory. Now four out of those 418 closed bars and six three-star hotels outside the list would start functioning. The liquor policy sparked controversies and debates creating factionalism within the Congress and the partners in the UDF. The latest issue involves Finance Minister K M Mani who is accused of taking bribes from the bar owners for renewing their licenses. The government has failed to convince the Court of their decision of achieving a complete prohibition in coming years.
Excise Minister K Babu has admitted that the latest Court decision has hindered the government moves in the matter. The anti liquor campaign spearheaded by Sudheeran aiming a total liquor ban was highly backed by the Catholic and Muslim organizations and religious heads and welcomed with relief by the people especially women. Despite the advantages, the new policy is impractical and tough to implement. Thousands suffer from addiction related problems with their families bearing the brunt. Kerala has the highest per capita consumption of liquor in the country and would therefore face a huge loss if the prohibition is implemented thereby putting pressure on an already staggering economy. The scarcity of liquor would also lead to illegal spirit flowing in the state. But both the parties are using the liquor policy to win the votes of the people. They, once in power are likely to forget and neglect the promises. The initial hype has died down. The latest Court decision is a definitely a clout on the government moves putting people in skepticism once again.