KANNUR: On a morning some 12 years ago, a few handwritten posters calling a hartal demanding an outlet of the Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco) surfaced at Ulikkal in Kannur, a sleepy hilltown close to Coorg district of Karnataka.
These anonymous posters elicited huge response from folks in the town - a hub of early migration into Malabar from the Central and South Kerala - with most of the shops downing shutters in solidarity.
Now, a decade after the Bevco opened a shop “on public demand,” the entire panchayat is up in arms, desperately demanding its closure. And they are pinning their hopes on the state government’s new liquor policy.
Opened in 2002, the outlet - currently functioning with the help of a High Court stay order - did brisk business at Ulikkal, catering to the ‘parched’ tipplers. Apart from regulars, the shop soon found new customers from the Paniya tribal colonies nearby.
Both men and women from the colonies started lining up in front of the ‘state liquor shop’. Some squatted in the line awaiting their turn and a good number of them had no qualms about hitting the bottle on the spot. The premises of the shop and the nearby roads turned into an open air bar, littered with bottles, plastic cups, pickle sachets and cigarette butts. It was not uncommon to see men and women loitering in the streets, unable to find their way home. It took less than five years for the pro-liquor sentiment in the panchayat to turn in favour of prohibition.
“Everyone was shocked when school children were caught from the shop queue,” said Marykkutty Chacko Palakkalodi, panchayat vice president and ward member of Ulikkal West.
Life in the colonies turned hell after men and women together with their children, started lining up for liquor.
Dogged fight to kick the bottle
The panchayat, which now favours a liquor ban, started the fight against the outlet in 2007. The panchayat council meeting held on January 23 too was unanimous in its decision to cancel the licence of the outlet.