Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday announced a new liquor policy for the state.
As per the new policy, liquor licence will be given to three star and above hotels. Beer & wine licence will also be allotted to the eligible hotels.
“The cabinet has approved the liquor policy. UDF's liquor policy was a total failure,” Vijayan told reporters here.
“LDF does not support prohibition but supports abstinence. After UDF's liquor policy was implemented, the use of drugs has increased. Give importance for campaigns that creates awareness among people, rehabilitation for those addicted to liquor. make proper treatment available,” he added
Vijayan also asked health and excise in all district to jointly start de-addiction centres and take measures for rehabilitation of de-addicted people.
According to the new policy, bar timings have been changed from 11AM to 11PM. Earlier, they used to function from 9.30 AM to 10PM. Those shops catering to tourists will function from 10 AM to 11 PM. Liquor will now be available in domestic terminals in airports as well. Legal age for drinking has been raised from 21 to 23 years.
Earlier in the day, the CPM-led Left Democratic Front in Kerala recommended to the state government to bring in a new liquor policy.
LDF convener Vaikom Vishwan told CNN-News18 that the recommendation was made after meeting of LDF Constituents.
They recommended that the state government should issue bar licence to three star and four star hotels. At present only the five star hotels have bar licence.
The state government, which is run by the LDF, was also asked to announce the new policy at the earliest.
Saying that liquor prohibition has not been successfully implemented anywhere in the world, the LDF recommended that the new policy should be based on abstinence. They also said the new policy should be in accordance with the SC’s order.
They also asked that pure toddy should be provided and a toddy board should be formed to protect those working in this sector.
The LDF, from the beginning, had hinted at a change in the liquor policy. They had maintained that the UDF’s liquor policy was not well thought out and that the tourism sector was affected badly because of this.
LDF has maintained that their position is not one of prohibition, but they do believe in abstinence. They said that alcohol and drugs have a bad effect society and that there must be more awareness against these social evils. However, they do not support prohibition.
In August 2014, then chief minister Oommen Chandy had announced the liquor policy which said that from the next fiscal year only the five star hotels would be given bar license and that they will shut down 10 percent of the state run BEVCO outlets every year. Their aim was total prohibition in 10 years. AT that time, the move was criticised. Critics saying it was not a well thought out policy and was the internal fight in the congress between Chandy and then KPCC president V M Sudheeran led to such a decision.
The liquor policy had created quite turmoil in the state and and led to the then finance minister K M Mani being sacked over allegations that he accepted bribes from bars after the policy was introduced. It was an allegation where one of the bar owners said that they had paid bribe to Mani to help reopen the closed bars.
The bar owners in the state had taken the case up to the Supreme Court which also did not give them a favourable verdict. They had challenged in court that the state’s liquor policy was discriminatory and it affected their right to trade. They stated that the tourism industry is also affected.