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Kerala to reopen bars as Left Front recommends revamping liquor policy

LiveMint logoLiveMint 08-06-2017 PTI

Thiruvananthapuram: The Left Front has recommended the Kerala government redraft the state’s liquor policy by providing licences to three star and five star hotels to serve Indian Made Foreign Liquor and toddy, a move strongly opposed by the Congress which has been pitching for phased prohibition in the state.

The new policy would result in the reopening of several bars that were closed during the previous Congress-led UDF regime.

Elaborating on the policy, Left Front convener Vaikom Viswam said total prohibition concept has not been successful in any part of the world and that the Front would campaign for liquor abstinence. He noted that the new liquor policy will also take into consideration the increase in the use of all type of intoxicants. “We do not think this is possible through prohibition, which has failed wherever it was implemented...We will fight the menace by launching a mass movement against not only liquor, but also drugs and other intoxicants,” Viswam said.

He also claimed that the liquor consumption has not come down after the closure of bars, but only increased. On anti-liquor agitation launched by Kerala Catholic Bishop Association (KCBC) and other outfits, Viswam said it was due to some “misunderstanding”.

On previous UDF government’s liquor policy, the Left leader said everybody knew that it (UDF government) brought about a change to the policy due to a tussle in the Congress between then chief minister Oommen Chandy and former KPCC president V M Sudheeran. To safeguard the traditional toddy industry, the LDF has suggested to constitute the Toddy board, he said.

Reacting to Viswam’s statement, KPCC President M M Hassan said his party strongly opposes the new liquor policy, alleging corruption behind the decision to reopen the closed bars. “It is a decision that came out of the illicit relation between liquor lobby and LDF,” he said. Congress would launch mass agitations against the new policy, Hassan said.

On 2 June, the Left-led state government had liberalised its liquor policy by taking away the powers of the local bodies to regulate setting up of liquor outlets. Protest erupted over the government decision with delegation of religious leaders, including the KCBC and anti-liquor activists, meeting the governor and expressing their opposition.

The previous UDF government headed by Oommen Chandy had brought in a significant change in the policy by which only five star hotels were permitted to serve Indian Made Foreign liquor (IMFL), which virtually led to the closure of over 700 liquor bars below the five star category across the state. Many of the closed bars were later converted to wine and beer parlours.

The closure of bars had also severely affected the state’s tourism industry, besides causing a huge revenue loss by way of taxes. The LDF in its manifesto had stated that it would bring changes in the liquor policy of the UDF when it comes to power.

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