The Cabinet on Wednesday set up a high-level committee to review the bar licences issued so far and submit recommendations for drawing up a comprehensive Abkari policy for the State.

Minister for Excise K. Babu said in an official release here on Wednesday that the Cabinet had also decided not to sanction any new bar licences until the committee submitted its recommendations.

Fast-track court

The Cabinet approved a proposal of the High Court to set up a fast-track additional district and sessions court in Ernakulam to try people accused of sexual offences and violence against women. It sanctioned 18 posts for the court.

The Cabinet took a formal decision to double the prize money for the winners at the State School Kalolsavam, as announced earlier. Accordingly, the first, second, and third prizes will now carry Rs.2,000, Rs.1,600, and Rs.1,200 respectively.

The Snehapoorvam programme to support education of orphaned children, undertaken by the Social Welfare Department, will be extended to higher studies also. Students who have lost both parents will get a monthly assistance of Rs.1,000 for studies at the college level. The scheme already provides Rs.500 a month for orphaned children at the high school level and Rs.750 a month at the higher secondary level.

Asraya programme

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told the media after the Cabinet meeting that the government would now take up the second phase of the Asraya programme. Accordingly, the Cabinet lifted the ceiling on coverage of the scheme. All the destitute in the State would get assistance under the programme with the lifting of ceiling on their numbers. The scheme was being implemented by local self- government institutions through Kudumbasree. Only 30 panchayats remained to be covered under the scheme.

Mr. Chandy said the moratorium on recovery of loans taken by farmers in Wayanad would be extended till March 31.

The Cabinet sanctioned Rs.25 crore for widening the seaport-airport road in Kochi with four lanes.