Madya Virudha Janakiya Munnani, an umbrella organisation of various anti-liquor movements working under the auspices of Christian churches, has called for the resignation of Excise Minister P.K. Gurudasan in the wake of the Malappuram hooch tragedy.
Addressing mediapersons here on Tuesday, Metropolitan of the Mavelikkara diocese of the Malankara Catholic Church Bishop Joshua Mar Ignatios, who is also the president of the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council (KCBC), said the Excise Minister must own moral responsibility for the tragedy and should not hesitate to submit his resignation.
Alleging an unholy alliance between liquor barons and those in power, including bureaucrats, the Bishop claimed that the Excise Department had facilitated the functioning of spurious liquor centres in the State. “Reports have proven that neither the government nor the State benefits from toddy sales. It is evident that the policies of the government are attempts to gratify liquor barons,” he said.
According to the Bishop, the core issue behind the present situation was the reopening of more than 1,600 toddy shops after the LDF government came to power. This was done with the sole aim of providing jobs to those close to the ruling front. The availability of toddy was never taken into consideration, he added.
The Bishop pointed out that by declaring financial assistance to the next of kin of the victims of the liquor tragedy, the government had virtually owned up lapses in the mechanism to prevent such tragedies. He added that the government should have imposed the fine on the Minister and bureaucrats concerned for compensating those affected by the incident.
Local body elections
The Munnanni has also requested political parties not to field those linked to liquor trade as candidates in the upcoming local body elections and the subsequent general elections in the State. “A person who is involved in such activities is not fit to represent the common man. Such activities are detrimental to the progress of the society. Parties should restrain from fielding such candidates for elections,” Bishop Thomas Samuel, head of the CSI Madhya Kerala diocese, said.
The Munnani would launch a series of agitations seeking the resignation of the Minister and the closure of toddy shops leading to a phased ban of liquor in the State. On Sunday, a mass protest march would be taken out in Pala under the auspices of the Munnani. This would be followed by district-level dharnas on October 1, he said.
Bishop Emeritus of the CSI Sam Mathew, Munnanni office-bearers Thomas Thaithottam, Prasad Kuruvilla, Jose Parekkadavil and T.J. Antony attended the press meet.