THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In the end, it was Chief Minister Oommen Chandy who had the last laugh. Stealing the thunder from KPCC chief V M Sudheeran, who had all along been advocating total prohibition in the state, Chandy who was perceived by some quarters to be favouring the bar hotel lobby turned the tables on his political adversaries by finishing what Sudheeran had started, seizing the opportunity and scoring political brownie points from an anti-liquor sentiment that was slowly but surely gathering momentum.
Aiming at bringing total prohibition in the state, Chandy announced after the crucial UDF meet on Thursday that not one of the 418 bars closed down in the state would be reopened. What’s more, 312 bars which have been remaining open in the state would have to down their shutters. From April 1, 2015, only five-star hotels will be eligible for bar licence. Which means no more licences will be issued to three- star and four-star hotels in the state. However, he said the government would seek legal advice on the issue as the government had collected licence fee from these bars.
The path-breaking meeting recommended to the government to reduce the number of Bevco outlets by 10 per cent every year so as to achieve total prohibition in 10 years. He said there was a general feeling against allowing any more Bevco outlets. In view of this, the government had not opened any new Bevco outlets after coming to power. He said the UDF had always been following a policy that total prohibition should be achieved in a phased manner. Sticking to this line, the meeting recommended to the government to announce dry day on all Sundays. As part of spreading awareness against liquor, one per cent of the income from Bevco will be utilised for a campaign.
Chandy said efforts would be taken to reduce the strength of the liquor being distributed though Bevco. The traditional toddy industry would be protected. To protect the employment of the toddy tappers, toddy shops would be allotted only on the basis of the number of coconut trees and tappers. The Chief Minister said five per cent of the Bevco’s income would be utilised every year for the rehabilitation of those rendered jobless. A rehabilitation fund, Kerala Alcohol Education, Research and Compensation Fund (KAERCF) will be constituted to help the addicts and other people concerned. The Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco), the state- run monopoly on liquor sales, runs 338 liquor shops in all in the state at the moment. Of them, seven are lying closed.