National

Kerala proposes 5% cess to rehabilitate bar workers

Vinson Kurian Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on November 25, 2017

Kerala is proposing an additional five per cent cess on liquor for rehabilitation of bar workers being thrown out of jobs in the light of its policy decision aimed at prohibition.

The State currently levies 11 per cent cess and a sales tax of 115 per cent on liquor.

The ruling coalition had yesterday allowed Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s proposal to shutter down the 312 bars that are currently in operation in the State.

FAULT LINES

This is in addition to 418 which are already lying closed, reopening of which had thrown open fault lines within the coalition and the Congress party at large.

Only five-star hotels, most of which are located in Ernakulam (seven) and Thiruvananthapuram (five), would now be allowed to operate bars in the State.

Party chief VM Sudheeran had been leading a resurgent voice of temperance with apparently increased mass support even as the Chief Minister held on to his view that those bars measuring up to specific standards be allowed to reopen.

It is in this background that the coalition leaders sat for a crucial and what observers expected would be a stormy meeting yesterday evening.

ANTI-CLIMAX

But in an anti-climax, Chandy went the whole hog by proposing the closing down of the existing 312 and a policy of prohibition in phases, springing a surprise on all.

This morning saw the Chief Minister go into a huddle with his confidante and Excise Minister K Babu, top officials of the Excise Department, as well as Advocate-General MK Dandapani.

The Chief Minister told a press conference that the Government has received legal advice that gave an all-clear for the decision with respect to the existing bars.

Not just would they be closed down but the State Government would format its liquor policy that aims to convert the State absolutely liquor-free by 2023.

TO BE REIMBURSED

Owners of the 312 bars would be reimbursed Rs 43 crore as residual licensing fees for the remainder part of the year from what was levied in advance from them.

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 licences, the Chief Minister said.

Going forward, the Government will also close down 34 outlets owned by the State Beverages Corporation and five of the State Consumer Federation on a yearly basis.

Beverages Corporation runs 338 outlets in all while Consumerfed has 46.

Published on August 22, 2014

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