A tipplers' paradise, Kerala will turn dry in 10 years.
The Congress-led United Democratic Front government on Thursday announced a number of steps to reduce liquor consumption in the state, which is the highest in the country, and enforce total prohibition in a staggered manner.
Now, only five-star hotels will serve liquor and all other bars will be closed down by March 31 next year. Every year, 10% of the outlets run by the Beverages Corporation, the government-owned IMFL selling agency, will be closed down, while every Sunday will be a dry day.
Liquor is sold in the state through 708 bar hotels and 383 state-owned retail outlets. At 8.5 litres, the state's per capita consumption is nearly three per cent higher than the national average of 5.7 litres.
Exorbitantly taxed (about 50%), liquor sales last year earned the state Rs. 9,000 crore.
However, according to Chandy, "the damage is more serious than income".
"The government is ready to forgo this for the benefit of society," he added, while admitting the government's anti-liquor campaign had failed to yield the desired result.
The state has also got another dubious distinction---it tops in suicide rate in the country. Often doctors and sociologists put the blame on high liquor consumption.
"The monster has started eating into the vitals of the state. The government can't ignore it anymore. Prohibition will be enforced in ten years," chief minister Oommen Chandy said.
The decision has been prompted by state Congress chief VM Sudheeran's staunch opposition to renewing licences of 418 liquor bars, which closed down a few months ago. The powerful Catholic church and Muslim League, a partner in the UDF, had also called for restrictions on sale of alcohol.