THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: KPCC president V M Sudheeran termed the demand raised by some quarters to ban the use of wine in churches in the state as not correct, reminding that it is part of a ritual and a tradition which is in vogue for centuries.
“It is for the Christian church to think over whether liquor should be banned. The interference of external forces is not proper,” Sudheeran told mediapersons here on Monday, responding to a demand put forward by SNDP Yogam general secretary Vellappally Natesan for banning wine in churches also, if curbs are imposed on the sale of liquor in the state. His reaction comes amid continuing political row over the new abkari policy and community organisations also joining issue with it.
Also the remarks are significant as he has drawn flak over allegations that he had hobnobbed with Church leaders to facilitate an atmosphere to promote his stand against renewal of licences of closed liquor vends in the state. He also clarified that he had not criticised anyone on the bar licence issue, referring to the mounting criticism over his many a statement and particularly one in which he had blamed the state government for virtually securing a verdict through a callous approach of the Advocate General(AG) in the court.
“My words were interpreted wrongly,” he explained and said, “I had only pointed out that the AG didn’t bring to the notice of the concerned court the liquor policy of the State Government. Also, what I meant was that had the AG apprised the court properly, an order (to examine facilities in all bars) would not have been passed.”
Excise Minister K Babu continued to turn the heat on Sudheeran Monday also and said that criticizing the AG is tantamount to criticising the government. He stated on Sunday that such statements would only weaken the government. He had also disclosed that Sudheeran himself had told him that hooch tragedies are likely to occur in the state if prohibition in any manner is imposed.
“The government has full faith in the AG,” Babu stated further on Monday. “What the AG had submitted in the court was the policy of the government itself. If there is loss of trust on the AG, the government will remove him,” the Minister countered Sudheeran.
The Chief Minister is also on record that what AG had raised in the court was the stand of the government.
Admitting what the Excise Minister had stated on the possibility of a hooch tragedy was true, Sudheeran said that he had informed the CM and Ministers of Home, Excise and Revenue as and when he got information on it. “It was after that the government and various departments maintained vigil,” Sudheeran claimed.
“I congratulate the government for taking steps to prevent a hooch tragedy,” he added. “I don’t know as to why Minister Babu had criticised me,” Sudheeran said, making an apparent climbdown from his reported stand that the Excise Minister had vitiated the bar licence renewal issue through his “provocative” statements.
He also tried to deny the charge that he had tried to corner Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. “I don’t know why it is being aired so,” he said, adding that he is not “interested” in fuelling any controversy on that score.
To a query, he said that the government would discuss the legalities related to the closure of 312 functioning bars and take appropriate steps. “Even the Opposition has welcomed the new abkari policy. That’s a positive sign,” Sudheeran said.
Govt To Seek Alternative Sources
Kottayam: Finance Minister K M Mani has said that the government would seek alternative sources to meet the revenue loss to be incurred to the state exchequer, owing to the implementation of liquor ban. Speaking to reporters here on Monday, Mani added that the government would take a decision only after considering how it could be fructified without imposing additional burden on people. Expressing his dissatisfaction over the internal conflicts in Congress to steal the credit of the decision, he said that it was a collective decision of the UDF and there was no need for any ‘claim war’. He said the government decided to take such a brave decision, which would create a huge financial loss for the government, solely for the welfare of the people.