Accuse UDF government of going back on promise to curtail liquor consumption

The government’s recent controversial decision to issue licences to open 14 more liquor bars has enraged organisations campaigning against alcohol, particularly those associated with the church, who had hoped the UDF government would beat back Keralites’ increasing craving for liquor.

“The UDF government came to power on the promise of curtailing alcohol consumption, but in the past year-and-a-half, it has sanctioned 48 bars,” Fr. Thomas Thaithottam, president of the Kerala State Prohibition Council, said.

“The previous LDF government had issued licences to only 158 bars in five years.” Rebutting the government’s contention that it had only acted on a Supreme Court directive, Fr. Thaithottam said, “The Kerala High Court had asked the government to consider allowing the bars to function only after 5 p.m., and also to shut down all toddy shops. Why doesn’t the government implement these too?” Fr. Thaithottam alleged that more than half the toddy being sold was spurious as the toddy tapped in the State could meet only half the demand.

Fr. Antony T.J., general secretary of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council’s Temperance Commission, alleged that the government had used the Supreme Court directive, on an appeal by bar owners, to issue new licences as an excuse.

“A government functionary told me that if the licences were not issued, the court would haul the Excise Commissioner to jail for contempt of court,” Fr. Antony said. “Then let it be — at least the government could tell the people that it was bold enough to resist a court order to issue bar licences, even risking putting its own official in jail.” Fr. Antony said the government had issued the licences even as it appointed a one-man commission to formulate a liquor policy. “The government did not even wait for the commission to submit its recommendations,” he lamented.

The UDF, he said, had not stood by its commitment to curtail liquor consumption if it was elected to power. Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco) Ltd. was, instead of cutting down on liquor sale, expanding its empire. Bevco had recently decided to buy or build its own buildings across the State to house its offices and sale outlets.

He also alleged that panchayats and municipalities were abusing the powers they had recently acquired to sanction bars and liquor outlets in their territories.

The Chelakkara panchayat in Thrissur district had, within a few days of the Supreme Court order on bar licences, given its permission to locate a bar in the panchayat.

  • Licences to be issued to open 14 more liquor bars

  • Panel set up to formulate liquor policy yet to give proposals