Thiruvananthapuram | The Kerala government today decided to dilute its new liquor policy, after pressure from various quarters, by sanctioning the functioning of beer and wine parlours and lifting the resolve to declare Sundays as dry days. The 418 liquor bars, which were closed due to the new policy that limited Indian Made Foreign Liquor bars in Five-Star Category Hotels on March 31, would be allowed to function as beer and wine parlours.
The fate of other 318 bars, now functioning on the strength of court orders, would be decided once the final verdict is pronounced. However, government was of the view that these 318 bars should also be converted into beer and wine parlours. This virtually would result in all the bars below the Five-Star Category functioning as beer and wine parlours.
Explaining the circumstances that led to change in policy at a cabinet briefing here, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said alterations were made considering the loss of jobs of the persons who worked in bars and the concern expressed by the tourism sector. Beer and wine parlours would be allowed only in bars found to be hygienic and strict monitoring would be carried out to ensure that no liquor was served in these parlours, he said.
On lifting Sundays as dry days, Chandy said it was found that liquor sale in the outlets of Kerala State Beverages Corporation, the sole agency for whole sale and retail of IMFL, has increased by 60 per cent on Saturdays. A decision has been taken to constitute an expert committee to study the impact of the liquor policy, he said and maintained that there was no change in the declared policy of the government to bring in total prohibition in the next 10 years.
These changes are made for effective implementation of the policy and no deviation has been made from the fundamental policy, Chandy said. As part of its resolve to reduce the availability of liquor, the working hours of bars have been cut short. However, Chandy said Indian Union Muslim League, the second largest partner of the UDF, expressed dissent over the changes in policy. The new liquor policy has been a topic of discussion in the state right from the day of its announcement on August 21.
The new policy was widely seen as an outcome of pressure from KPCC President V M Sudheeran, who opposed the renewal of bar licence to 418 bars on March 31. Overruling Sudheeran’s opposition to changes in the policy, the government had on Monday authorised the Cabinet to make necessary practical changes in the policy.
As a fallout of the new policy and embarrassment to the government, a bar owner levelled corruption charges against Finance Minister K M Mani last month, following which Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau registered a graft case against Mani. The allegation was that Mani had taken a bribe of Rs one crore and demanded more to facilitate the opening of closed 418 bars.
Both Chief Minister and Mani had denied the allegations and UDF had extended full support to Mani. Seizing on the issue, CPI-M led LDF opposition had attacked the government and demanded resignation of Mani. The issue had rocked the assembly session, which ended today.
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