THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Buoyed by the Supreme Court today upholding Kerala's new liquor policy restricting issuance of bar licenses to five star hotels only, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said it was his government's 'brave decision' to reduce alcohol consumption in the state.
Talking to reporters after a cabinet meeting here, he wanted the CPI-M led LDF Opposition to explain their stand on the policy, which they had criticised.
He wanted to know "whether they (the opposition) would support the policy or alter it if it comes to power?."
He described the liquor policy as a 'well thought-out policy and not one which was implemented in a hurry as alleged by the opposition."
The policy brought out by the Congress-led UDF government in April 2014 had limited the sale of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) in five-star hotels and this was a continuation of the UDF's initiative to reduce the availability of hard liquor, he said.
The policy's main objective was to implement total prohibition in 10 years time, Chandy said.
On allowing the conversion of the closed IMFL bars to wine and liquor parlours, Chandy said this showed the government's readiness to accept the views of all.
"The policy is not against any business groups. It is against the social evil to rescue the people from the clutches of liquor menace," Chandy, who is considered to be the brain behind the policy, said.
The new liquor policy also had its political fallout after a group of Kerala State Bar Hotel Owners'Association came out with bribery charges against former Finance Minister K M Mani who had to quit following stinging court observations on the matter.
Reacting to the bar hoteliers statement that they would come out with fresh allegations of corruption on the issue, Chandy said the government had "an open mind" on this from the very beginning and that has been made very clear also. With the new liquor policy, only 27 five-star hotels in Kerala would have liquor bars. Besides this, 33 clubs also have license to serve liquor.
The policy also had proposed to close down 10 per cent of the IMFL retail outlets of Kerala State Beverages Corporation, which is the sole distributor of IMFL in the state. With this, 36 IMFL outlets would be shut down every year.
Welcoming the apex court order, KPCC President V M Sudheeran termed the verdict as historic.
Sudheeran, who has been campaigning for total prohibition in the state, said the government policy had brought out "positive" changes in Kerala society.
There was a reduction of nearly 5.30 crore litre in the consumption of liquor in the state between April 2014 and September last, he pointed out. "It is a great achievement," he added.
Domestic violence and road accident rates also came down after the new liquor policy was introduced, he said adding the government was committed to taking this policy forward.
State Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said the apex court order was the one desired by the people of the state.
Mani said the verdict was a recognition of the liquor policy of UDF and government.
Meanwhile, Kerala State Bar Hotel Owner's Association said they would take further steps on the issue after discussing it with legal experts.