The communist ministry headed by E M S Namboodiripad that came to power in Kerala in 1976 had annulled the liquor ban that had been in existence till then.
Since then no election seasons have passed without the Left and the Right parties who ruled the state pledging the gradual liquor prohibition. The Udayabanu Commission entrusted with studying the alcohol policy recommended a step by step liquor ban. The parties in their election manifestos promised implementing the ban and keeping aside a small amount in the budgets for the awareness campaigns against the abuse of alcohol also became commonplace. But the reality is that the people have realized the lack of sincere commitment of the Left and the Right parties and their governments towards implementing the liquor ban. The huge amount received by the government in the form of revenue from the liquor businessmen and bar owners is not the only reason for this laxity. The truth that despite repeated alcohol-related tragedies including deaths, diseases and violence that claimed the lives of hundreds and turned many handicapped, the regular monthly payments and hefty bribes pocketed by the ministers and parties are the main reason for not meeting the assurances and promises in the election manifesto, is known to all. The Bar Bribery controversy that is continuing to rock the state politics since the court ordered the closure of all the ‘sub-standard’ liquor bars in small and medium hotels below five star status, exposes the shameful deeds of the ministers, politicians and senior officials.
Majority of the population believe that the decision of the Chief Minister and his ministers to close down all the liquor bars except those in the five star hotels, was their tactic to overcome the crisis over the failure of reopening the closed bars due to the strong stance of the KPCC president V M Sudheeran and also to outshine him. However the government claims that the move was part of the UDF promise of implementing gradual liquor ban. At the same time, bars attached to the three-star and four-star hotels have been generously granted wine-beer licenses. The alcohol consumption of the Keralites after the imposition of liquor ban is also claimed to have been reduced up to 8 per cent. The majority including women and children wants to effectively tackle alcoholism as soon as possible. Drinking has caused a sharp rise in the graph of domestic violence, crimes and road accidents in the state posing threat to normal and peaceful lives and leading to loss of wealth. These are far greater than the loss of revenue to the government. With the fifteenth assembly election just few weeks away, it is yet to be seen whether the political parties and their heads are making moves to once again fool and betray the people in the case of alcohol ban. Whether the UDF that hails the victory of their liquor policy, would field the same candidates involved in scandals including the senior leaders in the polls to recover their image lost in the bar bribery allegations, should also be seen.
It should also be clarified if solid and effective steps would be taken to ensure complete liquor prohibition in the state. It is time for the Communist leaders like Kodiyeri Balakrishnan , Pinarayi Vijayan and Kanam Rajendran to transparently present the liquor policy of the LDF instead of frequently issuing pointless statements and landing the people in a dilemma. It’s the individuals who should be deciding to stay away from alcohol. It’s not something to be implemented by the government. The money allocated for the awareness campaigns has only been lapsed. No government so far has been successful in safeguarding the people from alcoholism. Making liquor unavailable as much as possible is the most effective solution to cut down its consumption and extent. If the Left parties aren’t willing to do that, they should be honest by admitting it. The people can’t be blamed for believing any lie. It should be kept in mind that Kerala has not forgotten the presence of the Left and Right party leaders in the payee list of Manichan, the notorious kingpin of hooch tragedy.