Andhra Pradesh excise minister calls beer a ‘health drink’, gets heckled
Tipplers troubled by the ongoing anti-liquor protests across the country have found a kindred soul in Andhra Pradesh prohibition and excise minister Kothapalli Samuel Jawahar, who recently termed beer as a “health drink” and promised to aggressively promote its consumption.
The minister, who was discussing the new state excise policy on a popular Telugu television channel, said the government will take steps to promote beer because it is a healthy beverage on the lines of toddy. Jawahar, however, said consumption of hard liquor should be curbed.
When the anchor enquired about the manner in which the government would showcase beer as a health drink, the minister said: “Come to me, and I will prove that beer is healthy. How can I prove it in a television debate?”
The minister’s comment evoked strong reactions from Opposition parties. YSR Congress party legislator RK Roja wondered if the Chandrababu Naidu government would encourage the sale of beer in medical shops, considering that it has now been given the “health drink” tag.
Accusing the government of audaciously promoting liquor consumption, she said: “They have even decided to de-notify national highways for keeping liquor outlets open. This shows that the government cares only about excise revenue, not women or the anti-liquor struggle. We will agitate for the closure of liquor outlets and bars on highways.”
Jawahar told HT that his comment on beer was completely blown out of proportion. “I was reacting to a question on promoting liquor as part of the new excise policy. I said the government does not encourage liquor consumption, but tries to control it. Since it is practically impossible to prevent people from drinking, I said it would be better to encourage consumption of beer instead. Beer is a healthier option compared to other forms of liquor because it contains very less alcohol,” he said.
Jawahar said the government plans to encourage the sale of “neera”, a fresh and unadulterated form of toddy, as an alternative to hard liquor in the new excise policy that came into force from July 1. “At the same time, the government intends to allow the establishment of exclusive parlours that serve non-branded beer – which contains only a minimal amount of alcohol – instead of branded ones. Is that not healthy, when compared to other forms of liquor that have a huge alcohol percentage?” he added.
The minister asked his detractors in the social media to quit behaving like hypocrites. “Let’s be frank. Is it possible to stop people from consuming liquor? We have set up de-addition centres to treat drunks, but not a single person has been admitted here. We can only control liquor consumption,” Jawahar said, adding that he was a teetotaler too.
Jawahar – who represents the Kovvur (SC) assembly constituency in West Godavari district – was inducted into the cabinet by chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu in April.