Thiruvananthapuram, March 12 (IANS) With only days to go before the Kerala government unveils its new liquor policy, the Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference (KCBC) doubts the new policy would serve the objective of total prohibition in the state from 2023.
The state liquor policy comes into force on the first day of the new fiscal, but it is annually announced at least two weeks before March 31 every year, for all the stake-holders to pay their annual licence fees.
In a letter to all the Catholic churches in the state — comprising the Syro Malabar, Syro Malankara and the Latin churches — the KCBC has warned the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left government against tinkering with the present liquor policy, which sought to move the state towards total prohibnition by 2013.
The letter, read out on Sunday, said there is a concerted effort to project that the liquor policy initiated by the previous Oommen Chandy-led government as a failure, while the fact is that it is a success and progressing in the right direction to achieve total prohibition.
The Left Democratic Front’s election manifesto for last year’s assembly polls and Vijayan had termed the Chandy government’s liquor policy as a farce, and declared that the Left Front would pursue a policy of abstinence and not subscribe to prohibition.
Chandy’s government allowed the liquor to be served in only less than three dozen five-star hotels in the state, and all bars in two-, three- and four-star hotels were closed down. It also announced that every year, 10 per cent of the nearly 350 state-owned liquor outlets would closed down every October.
The Left government did not close down 10 per cent of the retail liquor outlets last October, which is a clear indication of what the new policy would be, the pastoral letter said.
Consequent to Chandy’s decision, over 700 bars were closed down and the Vijayan government is expected to change this through its new policy. The new liquor policy is expected to be out any time after March 16, the state assembly is in session till then.
The KCBC has already warned that it will not sit idle if Vijayan tinkers with the present liquor policy.
The letter said that as the first step towards realising prohibition, all the Catholics in the state should take a pledge that no liquor will be served in any family celebrations from now on.
According to sources, the new liquor policy is expected to relax rules and bars will be opened in hotels while meeting certain standards at accredited tourists locations in the state.
“Today’s pastoral letter is an advance warning to the state government to not tinker with the present liquor policy and if it does not happen, the KCBC will launch a protest,” KCBC official Prasad Kuruvilla told IANS.