An increase of Rs.1,200 crore over the previous year
: Keralites in the last financial year consumed alcohol the value of which was equivalent to the planned investment of more than four SmartCity projects or more than two Vallarpadom container projects.
The Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco), maintaining its double-digit annual growth, sold Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) costing Rs.6,730 between April 2010 and end-March 2011. This was a hefty jump of nearly Rs.1,200 crore over the previous year's Rs.5,539 crore.
This year promises to be better than last, going by the sales performance so far. In March, Bevco sold Rs.630 crore worth of liquor, which was by far the highest in a month. In view of the Indo-Sri Lanka cricket final on Saturday, sales at Bevco's outlets were very high on April 2.
Of the total sales proceeds of Rs.6,730 crore, a massive Rs.5,93 crore goes to the State government as taxes and other dues. This is because nearly 80 per cent of the price of a bottle of liquor paid by the customer goes to the government.
Bevco, the government liquor monopoly, is by far the largest contributor to the State exchequer and it is also the largest profit-making State enterprise. In other words, liquor pays a substantial portion of the government's expenses.
Last year, several organisations had launched anti-liquor campaigns. The CPI(M) affiliates — DYFI, SFI and the All-India Democratic Women's Association — had launched a high-profile joint campaign that was inaugurated by Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan. Several agencies of the Christian church had stepped up their efforts last year against the backdrop of the jump in liquor sales in the previous year.
The Bevco sales figures show that none of these efforts could dampen the spirit of Keralites.
In fact, the Bevco sales, through its 338 outlets, do not reflect the actual quantity of liquor consumed. The large quantities of liquor brought in from other States, illicit liquor made within the State and toddy sales should be added up to get the full picture.
Using the concept of ‘alternative cost,' the economic cost of Keralites' liquor consumption could be projected this way: four and a half SmartCity projects could have been built last year. The SmartCity project at Kakkanad, which was envisaged seven years ago, will cost only Rs.1,500 crore. The project which has created so much political fire is yet to take off.
Looked in another way, the cost of the liquor Keralites consumed in the past year could have helped build more than two international container terminals the size of the Vallarpadom project.