While announcing a lockdown, Kerala had decided to keep liquor outlets open. Just days later, the state has decided to shut these shops.
With 109 people testing positive for coronavirus (Covid-19), the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala on Wednesday (25 March) decided to close liquor outlets run by Beverages (Manufacturing and Marketing) Corporation Limited (BEVCO).
On Wednesday morning, state officials said the decision to shut all the 265 outlets had been conveyed to BEVCO managers. Besides, 36 other liquor outlets will also be shut.
The outlets will likely be shut until 14 April, when the lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ends. The state government, however, is toying with the idea of selling liquor online.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led LDF government’s decision comes on the heels of a major hue and cry being raised over long queues seen at the outlets despite the state announcing a total lockdown.
This, observers said, could lead to the pandemic virus spreading further. The Congress-led opposition, United Democratic Front, has been demanding closure of these outlets in view of the danger.
The LDF had countered the opposition by pointing out at the Congress-run Punjab, where liquor outlets are functioning.
On 23 March, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan included liquor among the list of essential items. He said establishment supplying these essential items would be kept open during the lockdown imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Vijayan told the media that Kerala’s peculiar situation demanded that the outlets be kept open.
Since the outbreak of coronavirus, social media has been agog with videos and photographs of how people in Kerala were continuing to visit liquor outlets.
One of the compulsions for Kerala to keep the BEVCO outlets functional is that it earns Rs 2,500 crore annually as taxes for the state government. The communist-led government is in dire need of such revenue when it is facing financial crunch.
According to sources, three BEVCO employees at the Powerhouse Road outlet in Thiruvananthapuram were asked to go on leave as they had symptoms of fever. But they have not been diagnosed with Covid-19 yet.