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Mixed reactions to Kerala's new liquor policy

Posted on Aug 22 2014 | IANS

Thiruvananthapuram, Aug 22 : Chief Minister Oommen Chandy's announcement of only five-star hotels serving liquor from the next fiscal and prohibition in the state in 10 years is generating a mixed response.

Chandy Friday said the new liquor policy will be submitted to the Kerala High Court Aug 26.

CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters a study should be conducted to find out the implication of the proposed prohibition.

"All those who are going to lose their jobs due to this should be rehabilitated. If the liquor consumption is going to come down through this new policy, we welcome it," he said.

He added: "But, it appears that this is not going to be implemented as Chandy's decision defies his earlier statement of a practical approach on deciding on the 418 bars. And see, how he suddenly took a different view," said Vijayan.

A dissenting voice came from senior Congress leader Vakkom Purushothaman who said the concept of prohibition has failed not only in the country, but wherever it was enforced.

A good number of housewives was waiting for Chandy to return home for lunch to thank him for his decision.

"We are really thankful to you, sir, for this decision. We feel now peace will prevail in most homes where men are addicted to liquor," said a housewife.

Syro Malabar Catholic Church spokesperson Fr Paul Thelekkat said that according to the Alcohol and Drug Information Centre of Thiruvananthapuram, 44 percent of Kerala's road accidents, 19 percent of stays in government hospitals and 80 percent divorces are linked to alcohol abuse.

"The drinking age is dangerously coming down. This clearly indicates alcohol has become a social sickness and we have to treat it. A sudden total ban may not be effective," he said.

He added: "We have to follow a path of progressive liquor control by reducing liquor availability, coupled with sensitisation in society and in schools and other educational institutions about the dangers of alcohol abuse."

However, a 70-year-old man standing in queue to get his bottle from the state-owned liquor retail shop in Kottayam said the decision will not affect him.

"I am a casual labourer and I do not have the money to drink from a bar. Once a week, I come here and buy myself a bottle. I am told it will take 10 years for total prohibition. I need to be worried about that only if I am alive then. So this decision does not affect me," he said.

An engineering college student said: "A good number of my friends do consume liquor. I have seen a family member die because of excessive liquor consumption. I hope the government is able to put into practice what it has decided."

On loss of revenue to the state exchequer, Finance Minister K.M. Mani said the immediate loss calculated for the upcoming fiscal is Rs.1,811 crore.

"This is an excellent decision and just because prohibition has failed elsewhere, it does not mean it is going to fail here. Do you mean a runner who loses one race quits. No, he tries again. Just like that, let us all see that this time, we succeed," said Mani.

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