news Monday, January 05, 2015 - 05:30
The News Minute | August 21, 2014 | 7.17 pm IST This is one instance of a government delivering more than it promised.  During the election campaign in 2011, the UDF had promised to bring down to liquor consumption but it has gone ahead and announced a complete prohibition of alcohol in the state on Thursday. The move comes after months of bickering over the state’s liquor policy. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy made the announcement after a crucial UDF meet held at Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday. For many months now, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee President VM Sudheeran, the Catholic church in Kerala has been advocating total prohibition. But the decision seems to have been made after more leaders like Ramesh Chennithala and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) endorsed total prohibition. The CM today announced that the UDF has recommended total prohibition, and once it is adopted by the state, government plans to implement a total prohibition of liquor in a phased manner and aims at achieving the goal in the next ten years. Oommen Chandy has made it clear that 418 sub-standard bars that had already been shut down in the state will continue to remain shut; and 312 more liquor bars will be shut down from April 1, 2015.  From April 2015, only five star bars will be allowed to function in the state and no new licenses will be issued to three-star and four-star bar hotels. Liquor will also not be available during Sundays in the state from April 1, 2015. In Kerala liquor is sold through outlets owned by the Kerala Beverages Corporation or Bevco. As part of the total prohibition, the state will start closing down Bevco outlets in a phased manner. Each year, 10% of the 380 odd outlets will be closed down.  The Kerala government said it would provide financial assistance to employees of existing bars to help them get new jobs. The Chief Minister justified the UDF’s decision saying that in spite of many steps taken by the current government to reduce liquor consumption, liquor continues to be a social menace. The UDF’s decision is a surprising one, especially for a state that earns high revenue from liquor sales, second only to tourism. In 2012, liquor sales crossed Rs 8,840 crore, of which Rs 7250 crore went to the state coffer by way of taxes and other charges. On an average, Bevco sells 240-250 lakh cases of liquor every year, one case containing 12 bottles. The last few years witnessed a lot of momentum from various sectors in the state, including the Catholic church, panchayats and municipalities, that wanted a total cap of alcohol sales in the state.

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