The intoxicating industries of spirit and spirituality in Kerala seem to have beaten the economic downturn.
Liquor sales registered a robust growth in the last three months,though the period had been marked by the loss of employement for many and crash in the prices of agricultural produce. Spirituality too seems to be on a high in recent months if the record revenue at pilgrim and retreat centres is anything to go by.
The Kerala State Beverages Corporation (KSBC),the sole distributor of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) in the state,has registered a 29 per cent increase in the sale of liquor for the quarter ended December 31 compared to the corresponding period last fiscal.
Managing Director Shanker Reddy said the economic downturn has had little impact on the sale of IMFL. Total IMFL sales in the last fiscal stood at Rs 3,669.49 crore. The figure likely to touch Rs 4,500 crore in the current fiscal,added Reddy.
Compared to IMFL sales of Rs 971.27 crore from November 2007 to January 2008,KSBC had sales of Rs 1175.83 crore from November 2008 to January 2009.
One of the highest liquor-consuming districts is Kottayam,also the largest grower of natural rubber in the country. Though rubber prices have plunged from Rs 140 per kg to Rs 65 in last five months,the mood is still upbeat in the IMFL outlets and bars in this Christian heartland.
Bacchus isn’t the only God on people’s minds either. Though the flow of tourists has come down due to the recession,pilgrim and retreat centres are still doing roaring business.
Sabarimala Ayyappa temple,one of the most famous pilgrim centres in India,had an all-time record revenue from its two-month annual festival season which ended in the third week of January.
According to the temple governing body,the Travancore Dewaswom Board,this season’s revenue was Rs 112.22 crore,while the figure of the last season stood at Rs 83 crore. This is the first time in the history of the hill shrine that the collection has crossed Rs 100 crore. A major chunk of the revenue came from pilgrims’ offerings at the temple.
The picture is also rosy at the Christian spiritual centres. The Catholic Church has 89 affiliated retreat centres in the state,which run five-day meditation camps every week throughout the year.
The Divine Retreat Centre at Chalakkudy in Central Kerala is one of the most popular. At least 3,000 people attend the weekly retreat session here. “We have not reported any drop in attendance,” said A B Mathews,accountant at the centre. Coincidentally,Chalakkudy is also the leader in IMFL sales in Kerala.
“We expect more people to turn to God during the economic crisis. Hence,a heavy turnout is expected in the coming months,” said a spokesperson of the Sehiyon Retreat Centre,Palakkad.
“In Kerala,people have a tendency to heavily depend on God and liquor during a crisis. The trend is likely to go up when the impact of recession becomes more severe,” says Dr C J John,a consultant psychiatrist in Kochi. “The state has a migrating community which moves from one retreat centre/pilgrim centre to another in search of panacea for their problems. That group keeps the spiritual centres filled throughout the year,” added John.