Why Kerala cannot imitate the Gujarat model of total prohibition

Why Kerala cannot imitate the Gujarat model of total prohibition
Why Kerala cannot imitate the Gujarat model of total prohibition
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The News Minute | September 12, 2014 | 07:59 am IST

The Supreme Court on Thursday told the Kerala government that if it wants to ban alcohol, it should stop it totally, like Gujarat. The apex court had earlier said that it finds no logic in Kerala’s proposal of phased prohibition.

Here are five reasons why Kerala cannot imitate the Gujarat model

1. Kerala is a tourist destination. The state had 1.17 crore tourists visiting it in 2013. In fact in a survey done by HolidayIQ.com, fifty eight per cent of over 5,000 participants from across 30 Indian cities said they would not plan a holiday to Kerala following the state's proposal to ban alcohol.

2. Solving the chronic problem of alcoholism by banning alcohol is like cutting off the feet to cure foot worm infection. Kerala’s problem is over-consumption, and though the UDF had promised to look at ways to encourage cutting down alcohol consumption, the government never initiated any effective campaign to spread awareness. Reducing access to alcohol is not going to solve alcoholism, people will just start travelling longer distances and hoarding. Tamil Nadu is already planning to start more state controlled liquor outlets in border areas it shares with Kerala.

3. Next is the amount of revenue Kerala earns through internal consumption, 22% of Kerala’s revenue comes from excise levied on alcohol. The massive loss of tax revenue when the depression hit ultimately compelled the American state of Washington to ditch prohibition. As The Hindu Businessline reported, the state exchequer had emptied itself after a cumulative Rs. 2,500-crore outgo in advance salaries, pensions and welfare payouts ahead of the Onam festive weekend. This had forced the government to requisition Rs 300 crore in advance tax from the Kerala State Beverages Corporation, the state-owned monopoly liquor distributor.

4. In a state like Kerala legalising alcohol consumption is essential to keep hooch tragedies at bay. Till 2010, Kerala witnessed quite a few hooch tragedies, forcing many in the toddy business to exit. Toddy freely flows in Kerala, even now. There have been many investigations by media in Kerala recently on how the toddy players are planning to increase sales, and increase in sale of toddy mixed with spirit. The black markets will thrive and explode.

5. Then there is the cultural angle. Kerala has a significant Christian minority population (19%). There is already much debate on wine and beer parlours not being mentioned in the prohibition. Vellapally Nadesan, the leader of SNDP, a powerful group of the Hindu lower caste Ezhavas, has been on the forefront of this debate asking the church to first close down its wine distilleries.

That notion that it is possible to reform Kerala’s society with a blanket ban on alcohol is naïve, it has been repeatedly proven that those who want it will seek it out. More often than not under illegal or tragic circumstances.

There is concern about excessive alcohol consumption and its linkages to crime, domestic violence and accidents. Instead of spreading awareness, the state has taken the easy way out, by using the prohibition tool, instead of doing some real ground work.

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