Under pressure from the liquor lobby and tourism sector, the Kerala government on Thursday decided to dilute its liquor policy announced barely three months back.
It has dropped its decision to make Sunday a dry day and decided to give wine and beer licences to 418 bars that downed shutters since April this year.
The Kerala government had announced a new liquor policy three months ago aimed at making the state, which has a dubious distinction of highest per capita liquor consumption in the country, completely dry in 10 years.
However chief minister Oommen Chandy said some changes were brought in due to ‘some practical reasons’ and reiterated that the government would go ahead with its plan to enforce prohibition in a staggered manner. “We have to consider tourism industry’s demand and pleas of hotel and bar workers who were rendered jobless,” he said.
The decision came in the wake of reports of tourism and labour secretaries that the new liquor policy would cripple thriving hospitality sector in the state. Besides, at least 10 jobless bar workers had committed suicide since April.
Opposition Left Democratic Front has slammed the move saying the government was forced to bend its knees before the powerful liquor lobby. “It was a move to bail out finance minister KM Mani who is facing serious graft charges,” said CPM leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.
The Kerala Bar Owners’ Association had made a serious allegation that Mani took money from it promising a favorable liquor policy.
Now the state vigilance is investigating the case. Besides opposition some of the ruling partners also criticized the move to water down liquor policy. “It is really unfortunate. This should have been avoided,” said Muslim League general secretary K P A Majeed. After Congress, League is the second biggest partner in the ruling United Democratic Front. However tipplers welcomed the move saying the government can’t lower their spirit like this.