Congress slams Left government’s liquor policy in Kerala

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Thiruvananthapuram, Sep 11 (IANS) Top Congress leaders in Kerala on Monday slammed the Pinarayi Vijayan government for tinkering with the liquor policy and attacked those who were quite vocal when the Congress was ruling the state but “have now become silent”.

The Congress party organised statewide protests on Monday against the new liquor policy which allowed reopening of more than 200 bars in three- and four-star hotels, which were closed when the previous Oommen Chandy government came out with its liquor policy in 2015. The aim was to enforce prohibition in the state by 2023.

Following the release of the new policy of incumbent Left Democratic Front (LDF), most of the remaining closed bars are also expected to reopen shortly.

Inaugurating the statewide protest in the capital city, Chandy called upon all those who were strongly protesting when the Congress was ruling the state to speak out against the ruling Left government’s new liquor policy.

“Such people should now come out in the open to fight the new liquor policy, as this policy is going to be detrimental to the interests of the state. The Left government has overturned the policy that was envisaged to enforce total prohibition in our state in a phased manner,” said Chandy.

The former Chief Minister had closed down nearly 700 bars in 2015, with liquor available in just two dozen five-star hotels in the state.

The Left government not only amended the rules to allow bars to operate along the state and national highways but also reduced the mandatory distance between liquor vends and educational and religious institutions from 200 metres to 50 metres.

“During the tenure of Chandy, every time the state government opened the topic of liquor policy, various Christian bishops heading different churches in the state and anti-liquor bodies came out with strong warnings, saying any policy favourable to the liquor industry would be opposed,” a Congress leader said.

But since July this year, after the Vijayan government came out with the new policy, all such organisations appeared to have gone silent, he added.

State Congress President M.M. Hassan, while inaugurating the protest at Ernakulam, said the new policy was an outcome of the secret deal worked out ahead of the 2016 assembly elections between the liquor lobby and the Left.

State unit Vice President V.D. Satheeshan, who inaugurated the protest in Kannur, said the time was not far away when one would see bars attached to schools in Kerala, as the distance from a liquor vend to an educational institution had now been reduced to 50 metres.

Former state party President V.M. Sudheeran, who inaugurated the protest in Kozhikode, said the State Excise Commissioner would come out with misleading figures and statistics, which also facilitated tweaking of the liquor policy.

–IANS

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