A day after the Congress-led United Democratic Front recommended steps for liquor-free Kerala, the Government said new liquor policy would be given sanction on Friday itself.
After attending a high-level meeting of officials of Taxes and Excise Departments, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the steps have already been taken to give sanction for the new policy today itself. Besides, the government would not wait until the end of this fiscal to close down the 312 liquor bar hotels which do not fall in the five-star category.
“A high court has asked the government to furnish the liquor policy on August 26, whereas the cabinet has its next meeting only on August 27. Hence, the liquor policy would be presented in the cabinet for its ratification after informing the court,’’ said Chandy.
In another significant move, Chandy said the government would not wait until the end of this fiscal for the closure of the 312 bars which are functioning now. “These bars have been given liquor license as per the existing liquor policy of the government. We have the legal opinion that these licenses would be revoked at any time after giving back the license fee to the hotel owners,’’ said Chandy.
Meanwhile, the debate over bar and bottle got a communal angle on Friday. Prominent Hindu leader Vellappally Nateshan alleged discrimination on the part of the government. He said bars that remained closed belonged to Hindus and those functioning belonged to Christians. “Let the government close down the 312 bars also,’’ he said.
Nateshan also blamed the Christian bishops for demanding total prohibition.
“Total prohibition should not be confined to abandoning brandy and whisky alone. Are the bishops ready to give up wine,’’ asked the Hindu leader.
Nateshan said prohibition was impractical. “The issue stemmed from the group rivalry within the congress. Chandy has outsmarted Sudheeran. Let us wait and see whether Chandy’s goal would turn into a foul in this game,’’ said Nateshan.
Bar Hotel Owners Association said they would challenge the government move in the high court. “Allowing the five-star hotels to run the liquor business shows the discrimination,” said president Biju Rameshan.
He said the industry has investment of Rs 10,000 crore. How the government can decide to suspend the operation in an overnight.
Former Apple executive and Dwarka MLA Adarsh Shastri has also been included in the spokespersons’ list.