The Kerala High Court on Thursday asked the state Excise Department and Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco) to start thinking about providing walk-in facilities at liquor outlets, instead of letting people line up in the streets. Retail liquor outlets across the state include 301 outlets belonging to the Bevco and Consumerfed, besides 576 bars and 291 wine and beer shops. Several of them are located on busy roads and long queues in front of these outlets is a common sight.
Considering a contempt of court petition, Justice Devan Ramachandran orally said, "Nobody wants a liquor store next to their residence. This is a fact. There is no point in lying about it. But if liquor stores were like all the other stores with a walk-in facility, it would solve half the problem. The issue is that since these outlets are small and dingy, people line up on the streets, making it impossible for women and children to safely walk through these areas. I don't see why we are burying our heads in the sand. This is happening and we all know it."
The court was looking into the issue in a contempt petition regarding the non-implementation of the court's four-year-old order to provide a dignified way to citizens to purchase liquor from Bevco outlets and also address the issue of overcrowding in front of these stores. The Kerala government's counsel informed the court that the Excise Department has taken small steps towards improvement of liquor stores in the state. The government also informed that to avoid overcrowding at the stalls, online booking services were also being made available. The case is scheduled for further hearing on November 9.
A study of the profile of liquor users in the state reveals that around 32.9 lakh people, out of the 3.34 crore population in the state consume liquor. Around five lakh people consume liquor on a daily basis. Of this, 83,851 people are addicted to alcohol, according to state government statistics. Incidentally for fund-starved Kerala, revenue from liquor and beer is one of the biggest sources for its coffers and in the last fiscal, it raked in over Rs 15,000 crore.