THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: “There will be no hindrance for using wine or liquor for religious purposes. The government will not create any unrest on this score,’’ Excise Minister K Babu said here on Tuesday.
Babu said that if wine is used in churches, there are places like the Muthappan temple in Kannur where liquor/toddy is served as part of rituals. “It will continue as it is,’’ he said.
On whether there is a proposal to grant beer-wine parlours on a priority basis for closed bars, he dismissed it. “Those are FL 11 licences, for which, fresh applications have to be made. It has been also decided to raise the licence fee for such parlours to Rs 5 lakh, from the existing Rs 4 lakh,’’ he said.
The rehabilitation package for jobless employees of closed bars will be discussed by the Cabinet on Wednesday. A composite scheme for rehabilitation of jobless workers, de-addiction and awareness programmes will be charted, said Excise Minister K Babu.
“An additional cess of five per cent on liquor sales in operating vends will be imposed to take care of the package finances,’’ he said.
“Perhaps, even an ordinance will have to be promulgated since the Finance Bill for the fiscal has been adopted by the Assembly,’’ he said.
The Excise Commissioner would be in charge of the implementation of the package. The Minister said that the Excise Department is not concerned about the financial loss to the state exchequer caused by the new abkari policy. “It will be taken care of by the Finance Minister. At the time when I took over as the Excise Minister, I had stated in the presence of all Cabinet colleagues in a media interaction that adding revenue to the state exchequer will not be my duty,’’ he said.
“I’m a poor, ordinary mortal. I don’t know how to act,’’ maintained Excise Minister K Babu in front of the mediapersons on Tuesday, taking yet another dig at KPCC president V M Sudheeran, without naming him.
Asked on the charge of T N Pratapan MLA that he was giving more importance to the Advocate General’s words than the KPCC president, Babu retorted: “The KPCC president is the head of our party and the Advocate General advises the government on legal matters. Both are entirely different and different domain. There is no point in any comparison between the two. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy is the head of the Congress Legislature Party and his role and importance is also different,’’ he said.
“As a minister, I’ve certain responsibilities including fulfilling legal commitments,’’ he said reacting to the criticisms levelled against him.
“All concerned have a responsibility to successfully implement the new abkari policy of the government,’’ Babu said, giving vent to his feelings amid a continuing spat with the KPCC president.
He said that not only at the outset of the formation of the UDF ministry, whenever the talk of Cabinet revamp cameup, he used to tell the Chief Minister that he is willing to forgo the Excise portfolio.