No final decision on dry days says Kerala Chief secretary

In a statement issued, Venu emphasised that recent reports suggesting a definite alteration in the excise policy were baseless.
Kerala Chief Secretary V Venu
Kerala Chief Secretary V VenuPhoto | Express

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Amid controversies surrounding the reported participation of key tourism department officials in the meeting to draft a new liquor policy for the state, Chief Secretary V Venu has stepped forward to clarify the situation. Addressing concerns raised by various quarters, Venu affirmed that while there were indeed bureaucratic-level discussions on the matter, no conclusive decisions had been made regarding the lifting of dry days for liquor sales.

In a statement issued, Venu emphasised that recent reports suggesting a definite alteration in the excise policy were baseless. The government’s clarification comes in the wake of Opposition scrutiny, particularly surrounding allegations of bribery. The Opposition had pointed fingers at the tourism minister, alleging interference in the domain of the excise department.

In his statement on Monday, the chief secretary said that certain discussions were held as per his direction to improve the state’s financial situation. A fake campaign is on the rounds misinterpreting these discussions, he said.

“For a long time, stakeholders in the industries and tourism sectors have been demanding the lifting of dry days. Stakeholders in the excise sector too had demanded the same. The meeting on excise matters convened by the chief secretary on January 4 had discussed the matter. But a final decision was not taken,” he said in the statement.

Earlier, on March 1, a secretaries’ meeting chaired by the CS had discussed steps to improve the state finances and administrative efficiency. It discussed the aftereffects of the cut on the state’s borrowing limit. Ease of Doing Business reforms, utilisation of urban infrastructure development fund and court cases involving the government were also discussed. The CS directed the secretaries to conduct further discussions and suggest ideas within two months.

The meeting identified different sectors to increase the state’s revenue. One of the topics that came up for discussion was the liquor sales ban on twelve days in a year and its adverse impact on the tourism sector and MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, conventions, exhibitions) business opportunities.

The CS then directed the tourism director to assess the losses to the state and to submit a note after conducting discussions. The tourism director was asked to conduct discussions with stakeholders in the industry. The tourism director holds meetings with stakeholders regularly. He also submits reports on discussions after every meeting. The CS said it was his duty to issue directions to secretaries on improving the state finances.

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