Kerala had a liquor ban as part of the previous Congress government’s policy, owing to pressure from Muslim and Christian political parties.
But with dwindling revenues and loss in tourism prospects, the Communists are now mulling liquor as a fiscal aphrodisiac.
Keralites may soon have a reason and many more venues to party as the CPI(M)-led LDF government in Kerala is mulling opening of pubs in the state.
In a television show, Kerala’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the state government was thinking of opening pubs in the city to address the dearth of ‘spaces to unwind’ for people working late in the night in the state.
Vijayan said the ‘state government is seriously looking into the matter,’ in order to deal with the ‘criticism’ that the state lacks good pubs and night restaurants.
The state had a liquor ban as part of the previous UDF government’s policy.
The ban was imposed in 2014 and aimed at ensuring total prohibition in the state. This had led to the closure of over 700 bars below the five-star category.
This was seen as an attempt to ensure the state sees complete prohibition by 2024. The stand, originally campaigned for by the then Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president and anti-alcohol crusader, M Sudheeran, had the backing of the Indian Muslim League (IUML) and the Kerala Congress-Mani — two parties whose major vote bank be predominantly Muslims and Christians among others.
The state’s conservative Muslim organisations and churches had both applauded this move of the then chief minister Oommen Chandy.
One could find hard liquor only in five-star hotels or government run outlets. At these official units of the Kerala Beverages Corporation (BEVCO) too, one would have to wait in long queues.
But the Vijayan-led LDF government eased these regulations and permitted three- and four-star hotels to also serve alcohol, calling the previous government’s ‘prohibitory attempt’ a failure.
In June 2017, the state cabinet had adopted a liberal liquor policy and removed the requirement of NOCs from local government bodies.
This move was said to relieve Kerala from ’heavy losses in revenue and a decline in tourism’ that the state witnessed owing to the liquor ban.
And now, in a bid to ease it even further, the minister in his weekly television programme said the government would want to offer IT professionals and others who work until late hours options to unwind and let their hair down.
This is said to be in response to long-pending demands to the previous government by employees of an IT park for recreational facilities like pubs on campus.
Given that the state has the highest per capita consumption of alcohol in the country, a step to reverse the ban is sure to relieve its distressed economy.