Kerala Left likely to permit liquor outlets to remain

Excise minister gives strong hints Kerala State Beverages Corporation will be allowed to function without shutting down some outlets

Gulf News

Thiruvananthapuram: The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala is likely to end the previous United Democratic Front government’s (UDF’s) policy to shut down 10 per cent of liquor shops each year.

Strong hints that the outlets of the Kerala State Beverages Corporation would be allowed to function without shutting down some outlets each year were given by excise minister T.P. Ramakrishnan on Sunday.

“The existing liquor policy aims to reduce 10 per cent of liquor retail outlets each year on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. However, whether this policy should be implemented this year will be decided during the coming assembly session”, Ramakrishnan said.

During the run-up to the assembly election in May this year, the LDF had said that it stood for abstinence rather than imposition of prohibition. Ramakrishnan said this suggestion of the LDF had been appreciated by the general public.

He said the government was aiming to launch a strong anti-liquor and anti-drug campaign to raise awareness about the ill effects of liquor and drugs and thus wean people away from such habits rather than impose prohibition.

The Congress-led UDF suffered a severe setback in the May election and analysts said a major reason for the front’s defeat was the decision to move ahead with a policy of prohibition, which not only left the UDF a divided house, but also adversely affected the state’s tourism sector.

Robust liquor sales were reported at the KSBC liquor outlets across the state during the Onam season. In the 15 days up to Thursday this week, one outlet in Kanjirapally in Kottayam district alone clocked liquor sales worth Rs20 million (Dh1 million).

Early reports indicated that there was a 16 per cent increase in sales across the state during the Onam season, and that liquor worth Rs5.32 billion was sold in the state between September 1 and 13.