Kerala’s UDF opts for total prohibition

KPM Basheer Kochi | Updated on November 25, 2017

Deep craving: Given the huge demand, any ban may encourage smuggling and bootlegging

Will implement decision over ten years; all bars to be shut by April 1

In a decision hailed by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy as the “biggest social reform of the century” in Kerala, the Congress-led United Democratic Front government has decided to go in for “total prohibition” in 10 years.

The decision, announced by Chandy, who is also Chairman of the UDF, after a two-hour meeting of the UDF top brass late in the afternoon, is expected to have a far-reaching impact on Kerala, which currently has the highest per capita alcohol consumption in the country.

The crucial meeting, which was called to decide the fate of 418 bars that have been shut, surprised the entire State by opting for a radical policy.

All bars to be shut

The new policy does not allow the reopening of the bars and will instead lead to the closure of all existing three and four-star bars.

The Chief Minister, who had earlier wanted to permit reopening of bars that followed standard norms, said that from April 1, 2015, only bars attached to five-star hotels would be allowed to function.

This will mean that all 312 bars functioning now, apart from the 418 already forced to close, would have to down their shutters permanently.

Chandy said that while the Government would prefer the 312 bars to close at once, it would seek expert advice on the legality of doing so, as these bars have secured licences to run until March 31.

“In any case, the licences of these 312 bars attached to three-and-four-star hotels will not be renewed in the next financial year,” Chandy announced at a press conference after the meeting in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday.

In order to implement the UDF’s “step-by-step prohibition in 10 years”, the government-owned Kerala State Beverages Corporation, which contributes around ₹10,000 crore to the exchequer annually, will reduce the number of its outlets by 10 per cent every year.

KSBC outlets and all the bars attached to hotels will remain closed on Sundays, in addition to the current policy of shutdown on the first of every month and other important days such as Gandhi Jayanti. “This will mean that from now on, there will be an additional 52 dry days,” Chandy said.

He also said that the Government was ready to forego the huge revenue it currently gets from the liquor business for the sake of the society’s better health.

It’s okay to drink toddy

The Government will, however, protect and support the traditional toddy industry and also launch welfare measures for the toddy tappers. It will also help bar employees who lose their jobs take up self-employed work and arrange easy bank loans for them.

Five per cent of the beverage corporation’s profit will be earmarked for the rehabilitation of its employees, who will lose their jobs over the next ten years as part of the step-by-step prohibition.

Published on August 21, 2014

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