De-notification of highways to overcome SC ban on liquor outlets suggested

Published - April 01, 2017 07:53 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

De-notifying the State Highways (SH) has been suggested to overcome the Supreme Court (SC) order banning liquor outlets within a 500-metre radius of the National Highway (NH) and the SH and to save the hospitality sector.

De-notifying the SH as district highways, as being done in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, will bring some relief to the tourism industry of the State that has been badly hit by the SC order.

Upgrade and notification of roads as SH come under the State and as NH, under the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. De-notification of the SH as district highways/roads will need the support of the local bodies on to whom the mantle of the upkeep of the corridor falls.

Bypass stretches

Confirming the move by the government in other States, Kerala Travel Mart president Abraham George said the de-notification could also be tried on the bypass stretches such as Ernakulam where half-a-dozen premium properties with bar licence had to close down their bars from Friday midnight.

In the case of NH stretches, the Union government has to issue the notification for NH. Even if they do it, the gesture will not be of much help as it will only downgrade NH corridor to SH. Only a joint move by the Centre, State, and local bodies will help the de-notification of road corridors.

Amending the Abkari Act to take out wine and beer from the category of liquor is another proposal mooted to help the tourism industry.

For the tourism industry of Kerala that generated ₹2,9658.56 crore in 2016, Mr. George says Friday’s order from the apex court was the latest of the series of surgical strikes. The industry had been reeling under liquor curbs, demonetisation, collection of TDS, one-time tax for cabs, and increase of service tax from 4.5% to 9 %.

It has come when the industry was expecting a relief from the new excise policy of the LDF government in the way of luxury tax based bar licence; 11 a.m.-to-12 midnight functioning of bars; serving of liquor in multiple venues with a single Abkari licence; online approval for one-day licence; and Abkari licence for house boats.

The decision would adversely affect the growth of the tourism sector, will lead to further slip in footfall of international travellers, and turn away investors from the hospitality sector, says E.M. Najeeb, chairman, Confederation of Kerala Tourism Industry. Investors will not be able to repay the loans and banks and financial institutions have already started refusing loans to hotels and resorts.

Sejo Jose, chairman of the Kerala chapter of Indian Association of Tour Operators, says it is a big blow to the sector and wonders how to market God’s Own Country abroad.

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