THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: While the LDF government has based its liquor policy on the state’s experience over the past year on the economic front following the closure of bars, it hasn’t been all roses coming its way.
Curiously, sections of the UDF camp - notably former minister and RSP leader Shibu Baby John and INTUC state president R Chandrasekharan - have welcomed the policy.
For sure, the government has stepped forward and implemented a significant point in its election manifesto - to revamp the liquor policy - a couple of weeks after having celebrated its first anniversary. But various sections of society are piqued over the prospects of 600 bars being reopened and hotels with ratings of three-star and above serving liquor.
While Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s claim the policy will energise the tourism sector is true, his other argument - that the new policy was necessitated as more and more youth were becoming addicted to drugs and psychotropic substances in the absence of liquor - has come in for criticism.
“If there is an increase in drug abuse, the Police and Excise officers should have taken stringent action,” said poet and activist Sugathakumari.
“If the government had the will, it could have curbed such activities in and around schools and colleges.”
She said women and children will be the ones facing the brunt of the new liquor policy. “It’s a grave injustice meted out to the women and children of the state. I’m not calling for a total prohibition. The government should have ensured a reduction in the availability of liquor. I don’t care about the economic or political impact. What I’m concerned about is its social impact,” she said.
Mahila Morcha state president Renu Suresh said whatever be the government’s claim, people believe the government had colluded with the liquor lobby to reopen bars. “I’m sure women will not allow the government to reopen the bars. Already, they are not allowing Bevco to open outlets,” she said.
Refuting criticism, CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan had substantiated the government decision the other day with figures on how cases related to liquor and narcotics had increased over the past two years.
It amounts to cheating the people who had voted them to power.
That over 600 bars will be reopened and hotels with ratings of three-star and above can serve liquor will definitely have a social impact not withstanding the economic boost it provides to tourism.
Critics like the Archbishop of the Latin Diocese, M Susai Pakiam, had already termed the government’s step “cheating”.