The Kerala government ratified the new liquor policy for the next fiscal on Wednesday. The new policy facilitates manufacturing of liquor and wine from locally available fruits, opening up of new retail outlets and permitting liquor licence at IT parks.
By giving licence to manufacture fruit-based, low-alcohol content beverages, the government wants to give a major fillip to the cultivation of banana, pineapple, jackfruit, cashew and nutmeg in the state. Besides, the decision to permit bars at IT parks is envisaged to increase facilities at the premises, government sources said.
As per the new policy, the state-run liquor retailer, BEVCO, would be allowed to open more outlets across Kerala. At present, the state has only 306 liquor retail outlets. The high court had several times pulled up the BEVCO to reduce the rush at these outlets and provide better facilities to the consumers. Accordingly, the new outlets would have walk-in facilities for consumers. The BEVCO has demanded 175 new outlets, but the final figure on new shops would be decided later. While selecting new locations for the outlets, preference would be given to tourism hubs.
The new liquor policy, which would increase the availability of alcohol in Kerala, goes against the earlier professed stand of the CPI(M)-led LDF. In the election manifestos of 2016 and 2021, the LDF had promised steps to bring down the consumption of liquor through enlightenment and campaign drives. However, the ruling party had specifically stated that it does not want a total prohibition.
In 2017, a year after the previous CPI(M) regime assumed office, the LDF had reversed the erstwhile Congress government’s (2011-2016) liquor policy, which envisaged total prohibition by 2025. Then, the LDF unveiled a new liquor policy that allows sale of Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) in hotels having three and four-star classifications. During the previous Congress regime, sale of IMFL was restricted to four- and five-star hotels, leaving the tourism and hotel industry in crisis. The reversal of the policy by the LDF in 2017 had led to the revival of the sector in Kerala.
The previous Congress government had also closed down several retail outlets as part of its policy to bring in prohibition in a phased manner. A chunk of these closed outlets would be reopened as part of the new policy for the 2022-23 fiscal year.
The previous LDF government also gave 250 new bar licences and 99 beer/wine parlour licences in Kerala, disregarding the protest from the Opposition parties and anti-liquor movements.
As per the state excise department data, the number of liquor outlets is low in Kerala compared to other states. Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh have 5,580, 3,938 and 2,800 outlets, respectively, while Kerala has only 306 outlets.
Source: india Express