Changes likely in liquor policy

Special Correspondent

Lalithambika panel has submitted 13 recommendations in its interim report

Reduction in licence fee mooted

Review of distance limit recommended

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State government is likely to make drastic changes in the liquor policy for the coming financial year.

The new policy is likely to witness a reduction in licence fee for toddy shops, review of the distance limit and further relaxation in reopening toddy shops that were closed during the United Democratic Front (UDF) rule.

The Lalithambika Committee, set up to suggest changes to be made in the State liquor policy, has submitted 13 recommendations in its interim report to the government.

According to Excise Department sources, the liquor policy would be finalised as soon as the final report is available.

The committee is understood to have recommended re-fixing the licence fee for toddy shops at the rates that prevailed prior to the ban on arrack.

The committee said the rates should be decided on the basis of a five-year average of the rates that prevailed prior to the arrack ban. The committee, headed by the former Additional Chief Secretary J. Lalithambika, who had held the Excise portfolio, said the reduction in the licence fee would help tackle adulteration.

Higher licence fee encouraged shop owners to mix spirit with toddy to maximise their profits. The interim report has also favoured the involvement of toddy workers’ cooperatives in running the shops. This would also go a long way in preventing adulteration, it said.

The committee has also recommended a review of the distance limit for toddy shops.

It said the distance limit should be done away with and if this move was not practical, the government should consider reducing the current 400 mt. limit to 200 mt., which is now applicable to foreign liquor shops and liquor bars. It favoured further relaxation in rules for reopening toddy shops that had been closed during the UDF rule.

The Government had taken a decision to permit reopening of toddy shops last year. But several of them could not be reopened. The committee has suggested that these shops be allowed to function at the same location or within 50-metre radius of their earlier location.

The decision on the liquor policy would be taken in tune with the political imperatives of the Left Democratic Front government, according to sources.

The UDF government, led by A.K. Antony, had decided to close down more than 1,000 toddy shops following a massive agitation by the Latin Catholic Church, besides increasing the distance limit to 400 metres for toddy shops.

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