The Kerala government on Friday liberalised its liquor policy by taking away the powers of local bodies to regulate the setting up of liquor outlets, drawing sharp criticism from the Anti-Liquor Public Front that has announced a day-long hunger protest before the Kerala Assembly on June 8.
Governor P. Sathasivam signed an ordinance making necessary amendments in the Kerala Municipality Act and Kerala Panchayat Raj Act.
Upset with the Governor for signing the ordinance, the Anti-Liquor Public Front led by Archbishop M. Susaipakiam on Friday alleged he was "acting under government pressure".
"We are going to stage a day-long hunger protest before the Kerala Assembly on June 8 against the injustice done by the government. We will also meet all the political parties explaining what this law would mean to the people," said eminent poet and writer Sugathakumari, who is a member of the Front.
The Front, which called on the Governor on Friday to request him not to sign the Pinarayi Vijayan government's Ordinance removing the earlier rules with regard to opening any liquor outlet, felt "cheated" when they realised he had already inked it.
"We feel we have been cheated by the Left government over the liquor policy. We never expected this to have happened and we are upset because through this new Ordinance, the right now vests with the Excise Department," Susaipakiam told reporters after calling on the Governor.
The previous Oommen Chandy government had given the final say regarding opening of any liquor outlet, be it a bar or wine shop or a retail outlet, to the local bodies.
The Vijayan government has brought in changes to the UDF's liquor policy by allowing the reopening of bars in tourist destinations besides scrapping the decision to shut down 10 per cent liquor outlets annually.
There are currently only two dozen bars in five star hotels in Kerala, as the previous government had closed down around 700 bars that operated from various three and four-star hotels.
Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition, Ramesh Chennithala, went hammer and tongs against the Vijayan government for coming out with an Ordinance.
"They always speak so high of decentralisation, but through this ordinance they have plugged the move through which local bodies could have made the decision on whether they approve of a liquor outlet in their area. But now, it would be the Excise Department that will take the call, and it clearly shows what the Left is up to," he said.