The Kerala government lead by the Left Democratic Front (LDF) has decided to raise the legal drinking age from 21 to 23 years.
The State Cabinet in a meeting on Wednesday decided to introduce a new ordinance raising the minimum age for liquor consumption from 21 to 23. The Ordinance will amend the Abkari Act. The previous UDF regime had adopted a policy in favour of prohibition by shutting down bars and closing doors on state-run liquor vending outlets.
But in September this year, the LDF government relaxed rules for bars and restaurants with four stars and above by reducing the mandatory distance from places of worship and educational institutions from 200 to 50 metres.
This sparked a state-wide scramble to upgrade bars and hotels. However the move was met with stiff resistance from opposition who called it a ‘gimmick’, reported The Hindu.
"Early this year, they re-wrote the Abkari laws and liquor today is freely available unlike the laws when we were in power (2011-16)," said senior Congress leader Joseph Vazhackan speaking to IANS.
"During our time the total number of hotels that served liquor was just two dozen and today that number has dramatically gone up. Raising the age to 23 is just an eye wash."
Taking a divergent view, state Youth Commission Chairperson Chintha Jerome said this is going to curb the liquor consumption of the upcoming generation.
"I see this as a very positive step and this is going to curb the tendency of the new and young generation," said Jerome speaking to IANS.
Johnson. J. Edayaranmula, director, Alcohol and Drug Information Centre, said the new law would merely drive underage drinking underground. He cited Maharashtra and New Delhi, where legal drinking age was raised to 25 but it had little impact on the ground.
The dilution of offset norms for bars had drawn sharp criticism from Opposition parties and prohibition activists, who viewed it as a move to pander to the liquor lobby. The Cabinet decision to raise the legal drinking age is perceived to be an attempt to counter the criticism against the government.
With inputs from IANS