Kerala has decided to suspend the sale of liquor through retail outlets of the Kerala State Beverages Corporation (BEVCO) for 21 days in accordance with the three-week national lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday to stem the spread of the coronavirus infection.
On Monday, when Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced a statewide lockdown, he had ruled out shutting the 330 outlets of BEVCO, which has a monopoly over the retail sale of alcohol in the state. On being asked about the same, the chief minister had said that a knee-jerk reaction to cut the sale of liquor could have ‘social repercussions’, indicating the flow of illicit liquor into the state. Over the last few days, despite the lockdown and the stringent measures imposed by the state police, there were heavy queues in front of the ‘beverage’ shops raising fears about the spread of infection in such places. Follow Coronavirus India LIVE Updates
On Wednesday, BEVCO MD G Sparjan Kumar said a decision on opening the retail outlets would be taken after 21 days, taking the situation into consideration. He added that he had not received any instructions from the government regarding the online sale of liquor.
In 2018-19, BEVCO had reported Rs 14,504 crores from the sale of liquor through its 330 retail outlets. This was Rs 1567.58 crores more from the previous year sales of Rs 12,937.09 crores, indicating a rise of 12% in sales. By way of excise duty and sales tax on liquor, the government raked in Rs 11,000 crores last year.
The present Left government, after coming to power, has drastically changed the liquor policy of the previous Congress-led UDF government which was thrust upon prohibition. The CPM-led government proceeded to reopen hundreds of bars that had been shut by the previous regime and allowed the functioning of bars at two-star and three-star hotels.
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