Kerala Minister attempts to bust myths on ‘boozing Keralites’

Kerala had one of the lowest number of liquor outlets in the country, according to Rajesh.
Excise Minister M B Rajesh
Excise Minister M B Rajesh

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  Keralites aren’t the heaviest drinkers in the country and the state is not heavily dependent on revenue from liquor sales! On Tuesday, Excise Minister M B Rajesh attempted to debunk some myths about Kerala’s liquor consumption. He was replying to the discussion on the Kerala Abkari (Amendment) Bill, 2023. 

Myth number one, according to the minister, is that Keralites top in alcohol consumption. He said only 12.4% of the population in Kerala (between 10 and 75 years of age) uses alcohol as against the national average of 14.6%. 

“The opposition party’s claims on Kerala’s liquor consumption are bogus. Consumption rate in Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh is 35.6%, Tripura 34.7% and Punjab 28.5%,” he said. The minister quoted these figures from the “Magnitude of Substance Use in India 2019” report from the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.” 

Rajesh claimed that liquor sales declined under his government. The state-run Beverages Corporation sold 244.33 lakh cases of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) in 2012-13 and the figure was 224.34 lakh cases for 2022-23. Liquor sales dipped by 8.1 pc in 10 years and LDF was in power for seven years. Total IMFL sales under the previous UDF government were 1,149 lakh cases. It declined to 1,036 lakh cases under the first Pinarayi Vijayan government. 

Kerala had one of the lowest number of liquor outlets in the country, according to Rajesh. Together, Bevco and Consumerfed have 309 outlets whereas the total number of outlets in neighbouring Tamil Nadu was 5,329 and Karnataka 3,980. Kerala has one outlet for every one lakh of the population while Tamil Nadu has an outlet for every 13,000 people and Karnataka has 17,000 people. 

Another myth, according to the minister, is that Kerala is heavily dependent on revenue from liquor sales. Excise revenue constitutes just 0.3% of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) of the state. It is 2.4% in UP and several other states like Karnataka and Punjab have figures higher than Kerala. In terms of excise revenue, Kerala is ranked 23rd among Indian states and UTs.

Sales tax from liquor sales is 13.4% of the total revenue income of the state. The excise duty and sales tax together under the UDF government was 18.21% of the revenue income and it came down to 13.4% under the LDF government. “I hope these statistics will disprove the baseless allegations levelled against the LDF government inside the assembly and in the public domain,” Rajesh said. The bill was passed by the House.

Excise Department to curb Drug menace

The excise department has recommended the preventive detention of 61 people in various districts under the NDPS Act, Excise Minister M B Rajesh has said. The department takes steps to confiscate the property of the accused in NDPS cases involving commercial quantities. The property would be frozen at the time of the probe and confiscation steps are initiated after the sentence. The department has a database of 2,390 criminals. They are being monitored. 

As many as 10,469 cases were registered in the one-month Onam special drive of the excise department. A total of 833 cases were registered 841 people were booked under the NDPS Act, 1,851 cases were registered and 1,479 people were arrested under the Abkari Act. Drugs worth Rs 3.25 crore were seized.

The minister narrated an incident in which Kerala’s Excise officers visited Andaman and Nicobar as part of a crime investigation. The Manjeri Excise Range Office arrested two persons for possessing 500 gm of methamphetamine.

During interrogation, the accused told the officers that a large quantity of the drug was hidden in a bunker in Andaman. Two officers from Kerala visited the island and seized 50 kg of methamphetamine from the bunker with the support of Customs and local police. It was destroyed there. The minister said the drug abuse was rising in the state but the opposition’s scaremongering was unwanted. The drug abuse rate in Kerala is 0.1% as against the national figure of 1.2%, he said.

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