Kerala not 'full of tipplers', data says state is not even on top 10 list

Kerala’s alcohol consumption rate is just 12.4%, which is lower than the national average of 14.6%, pointed out Excise Minister MB Rajesh in the Assembly.
Kerala not 'full of tipplers', data says state is not even on top 10 list
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Contrary to the misconception that Kerala is among the biggest consumers of alcohol in the country, Minister for Excise MB Rajesh presented data in the Assembly to reveal that the alcohol consumption rate of Kerala is lower than the national average. In fact, a deeper look into the data shared by the Minister shows that the state does not even make it to the top ten states with the highest alcohol consumption.

During a discussion on the Kerala Abkari (Amendment) Bill, 2023 on Wednesday, September 13, the Opposition had alleged that alcohol and drug usage in the state has been going up in the past several years. Responding to this, the Minister said there is a tendency to portray Kerala as a high consumer of alcohol “inside and outside” the Assembly, adding that he would present data disproving the claim. Citing the data from the report titled Magnitude of Substance Use in India 2019 by the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, he said that the national average of alcohol consumption was 14.6%.

“Kerala’s consumption is just 12.4%, which is lower than the national average,” the Minister said, pointing out that Chhattisgarh’s alcohol consumption is 35.6%, twice that of Kerala. In the Congress-governed states of Tripura and Punjab, the consumption is 34.7% and 28.5% respectively, he said. “I wish to underscore that Kerala’s alcohol consumption rate is lower than the national average. There has been a false campaign happening in the public,” he added.

According to Magnitude of Substance Use in India 2019, Chhattisgarh has the highest prevalence rate of alcohol at 35.6%, followed by Tripura [34.7%], Punjab [28.5%], and Arunachal Pradesh [28%]. Kerala comes in the 21st place with a prevalence rate of 12.4%. The data was collected between December 2017 and October 2018, from people of age group 10-75.

The Minister also quoted the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), which has data for the year 2019-2021 for people aged above 15 years. Arunachal Pradesh tops this list with 52.7% of men and 24.2% of women consuming alcohol. Kerala has just 19.9% men and 0.2% of women consuming alcohol.

Responding to the allegation that the Left Democratic Front (LDF) was generating more revenue from alcohol, the Minister said that state-run Bevco sold 224.34 lakh cases of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) in the year 2022-23, as opposed to 244.33 lakh cases during 2012-13. “There has been an 8.1% decrease in alcohol sales in the state in the past 10 years,” he said. He also added that there are only 309 liquor outlets in Kerala, while there are 5,329 in Tamil Nadu and 3,980 in Karnataka. “To put it in other words, Kerala has only one outlet for one lakh of its population, while Tamil Nadu has one outlet for 13,000 people and Karnataka has one outlet for 17,000 people,” he said.

Minister Rajesh also pointed out that excise revenue in the state is only 0.3% of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) of the state, while it is 2.4% in Uttar Pradesh. “Comparing the excise revenues of states, Kerala comes in the 23rd place,” he said, and added that the statistics will clear the air of the baseless allegations made regarding alcohol consumption in the state.

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