Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government’s intention to bring about prohibition in a phased manner has begun with a new liquor policy that will turn the state into a dry one in a decade.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who yesterday finalised the new liquor policy, told reporters it will be submitted to the Kerala High Court on August 26.
The United Democratic Front (UDF) arrived at the decision following state Congress President V M Sudheeran’s tough stand when he, citing a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, argued that 418 bars with poor infrastructure in the state should not be given new licences this fiscal.
The issue reached the Kerala High Court which asked the government to come up with a new liquor policy, and also directed a two-member government committee to submit its report on August 26 on the condition of these bars.
“Not only will the 418 bars that are closed now will not open, but the 312 bars that are open will be closed at the earliest. We have to settle their outstanding amounts and we have got legal opinion that we need not wait till this fiscal-end to close down these bars. From next year, only five star hotels will be serving liquor,” said Chandy.
Kerala’s sole liquor wholesaler is the state-owned Beverages Corporation and in all, there are 383 retail outlets.
“Starting October 2 this year, 10 percent of the retail outlets will close down and apart from the existing dry days, all Sundays will now be dry days. In 10 years’ time, total prohibition will be in place in Kerala,” said Chandy.
However, CPM politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said: “This is just an eyewash as total prohibition is not going to be practical and this sudden decision is just meant to settle down the issues in the Congress party.”
Finance Minister K M Mani when asked if Chandy has usurped all the glory in his one stroke, said: “If the glory is there for the chief minister, we being his cabinet colleagues will also get the glory of this very excellent decision.”