B. Sugathakumari, poet and campaigner for prohibition, says the Kerala High Court proposal to restrict the working hours of bars during daytime would have little effect on consumption of liquor in Kerala as long as the restriction does not extend to the outlets of the Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco).
She feels that it would lead to unrest in family life as more people start drinking at home. “Alcoholics will ensure their daily fix at any cost. If bars are closed during daytime, they will just opt to drink at home or in public places on the sly. As long as the sales outlets of Bevco remain open, they can get liquor and are being denied only a place to sit down and drink.”
Rubbishing the common excuse that the government is dependent on the revenue from the sale of liquor at the Bevco outlets, Ms. Sugathakumari says, “The government’s financial problems cannot be resolved by Bevco. The loss from accidents, crime, and violence caused by consumption of liquor is at least 10 times the revenue from liquor sale.”
The High Court observation will not do much good if the objective is to curb consumption, she says.
In coastal areas
T. Peter, secretary, National Fishworkers Forum, says the proposal would help to reduce the consumption of liquor among coastal communities if it is implemented. “For most fisherfolk, drinking is impulsive, a bar is a temptation. There is a particular bar in Thiruvananthapuram that provides free pickup and drop facility for people from the fishing village of Poonthura during daytime. That kind of drinking is bound to come down drastically if bars remain closed during the day.”
Mr. Peter says the High Court observation would be hailed by women in coastal areas. Asked whether drinking would shift from bars to houses, he replies in the negative. “Today, women and youngsters in the coastal areas have acquired the moral strength to stand up and raise their voice against liquor. That is why the menfolk seek refuge in bars. Keeping the bars closed during daytime is welcome but it will help if the functioning of Bevco outlets is also restricted.”
T.P. Kunhikannan, State committee member, Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad, says the High Court suggestion would be beneficial for Kerala if it is accepted by the government. He, however, stresses the need to enforce the ban on consumption of liquor in public places. “As long as the Bevco outlets remain open, the supply is maintained. If the objective is to reduce consumption, the restriction on bars should be backed by strict enforcement”.
Mr. Kunhikannan says shutting down the Bevco outlets during daytime is desirable. KSSP, he says, is in favour of prohibition though he admits that it can be done only in a phased manner.