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Day after, Kerala takes stock of decision to go for total prohibition of bars

Vinson Kurian Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on November 25, 2017

It was an anti-climax to the months-long sustained war of words between the Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy, and the State Congress President V M Sudheeran, over re-opening of 412 bars forced to shutter due to "lack of adequate facilities''.

A historic day after Kerala took the decision to go for total prohibition, reality is slowly sinking in as the State Government and the public mulls its implications.

It was an anti-climax to the months-long sustained war of words between the Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy, and the State Congress President V M Sudheeran, over re-opening of 412 bars forced to shutter due to "lack of adequate facilities''.

Turning tables

At a crucial meeting of top brass of the coalition yesterday, Chandy turned the tables on Sudheeran by proposing that even the 312 bars operating currently too shut down and that the State go for total prohibition over the next 10 years.

This sprung a surprise even on campaigners, who had upped their ante demanding prohibition and had amassed in recent times a groundswell in varying shades of public opinion in support.

Chandy, who announced the decision to a non-plussed Congress-led coalition Government and the State at large, met this morning with his confidante and Excise Minister K Babu and top officials of the Excise Department at his official residence.

CM holds meeting

The meeting discussed various ramifications of the decision - including a hit on a major source of revenue for the Government amounting to upwards of Rs 10,000 crore annually; surge of contrabands; and loss of jobs, sources said.

Emerging from the meeting, the Excise Minister said that the Government did not expect to tie itself into legal knots over the fact that the 312 bars operating currently would also need to close along with the 418 already shuttered for "lack of adequate facilities''.

The contentious issue was over the annual licence fee of more than Rs 100 crore that has already been secured from the operators of the 312 bars.

Within right

The Excise Department is of the view that this should not raise a problem since the Government has the right to withdraw licences any time before the expiry of the tenure by reimbursing the fee.

A condition to this effect has been specifically provided for in the terms and conditions for licence.

The Government has also the absolute right in the renewal of licenses, the Minister said.

Meanwhile, the meeting is also learnt to have discussed the finer details of the State Government in a related case in the High Court in the light of yesterday’s decision to aim for total prohibition.

Published on August 22, 2014

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