On the first day after the lockdown norms were eased in Kerala, the biggest cheer was seen in front of liquor vends as tipplers waited from early morning on Thursday at several places to get their favourite drink.
Across the state, 301 retail liquor vends belonging to the state-run Bevco and marketed, besides 576 bars and 291 wine and beer shops, will be selling liquor.
While retail outlets opened at 9 a.m, bars which will provide only take away will open at 11 a.m.
Tipplers were caught unawares when without even the slightest of the indications, on April 26, the decision came that till further notice, no liquor vends would be opened and it left many fretting and fuming.
“It was tough as I did not have any stock of liquor. Today, I feel some sort of fresh energy and have been waiting for a while in the queue to collect my stock,” said a smiling 65-year-old man in the state capital and added all the Covid protocols are being followed as he waved a small bottle of sanitizer and pointed out that the social distance is also being maintained and not to mention he showed that he has two masks.
“Just see, is there any hustle and bustle or jostling? We will never create any difficulty for us by creating a scene. Our only request is please inform the authorities, that we would like these shops to open on Saturday and Sunday also, which is not going to happen. That’s a wrong decision,” said a youngster who got one litre of his favourite drink and was rushing back.
Soon after the vends closed all of a sudden, hopes were raised, when media reports surfaced, the new Pinarayi Vijayan government might consider home delivery of liquor, but State Excise Minister M.V. Govindan last month ruled it out.
Incidentally during the 2020 lockdown, the Pinarayi Vijayan led Left government had come out with an app for all the liquor buyers and each person who wanted liquor got an alert to reach a particular liquor vend, including bars to buy his stock, but this time, there is no app and one can visit his or her nearest vend to the stuff.
The profile of liquor users in the state in an earlier study reveals that around 32.9 lakh people out of the 3.34 crore population in the state consume liquor, which include 29.8 lakh men and 3.1 lakh women.
Around five lakh people in Kerala, consume liquor on a daily basis. Of this, around 83,851 people including 1,043 women are addicted to alcohol, according to state government statistics.
Incidentally for fund starved Kerala, revenue on liquor and beer is one of the biggest cash cow and in the last fiscal it recorded over Rs 15,000 crore and hence the state will soon have to take care of its tipplers.