The Left Front is now thinking of allowing opening of clubs within IT parks.


New Delhi: With the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government deciding to open more liquor outlets across the state, Kerala once again is on a high. Not that the worshippers of Bacchus in the state were on “abstinence”, a proclaimed policy of the LDF for the past six years, but the fact that liquor will flow more freely is something to cheer for a majority of the populace in the state, arguably the highest consumers of the heady brew in the country.
A special cheer awaits the blossoming IT sector in the state which had, in the past, been left high and dry when it comes to consumption of alcohol as a means of relaxation after a hard day’s labour, unlike their peers in Bangalore. The Left Front, still averse to the term “pub” due to objections from some partners, is now thinking of allowing opening of clubs within IT parks, formalities of which are being worked out. Kerala has three major IT parks in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode employing over a lakh. Though the Left Front, which is now enjoying a second term, had vowed to discourage alcohol consumption, the fact is that liquor continues to be the major revenue earner for the state along with fuel, petrol, and lottery.
As per the latest figures of the Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco), the sole distributor of wholesale liquor in Kerala, the revenue contribution till February 2021 is Rs 10,379.38 crore, almost half of the state’s total revenue.
Bevco has around 400 outlets in the state, where serpentine queues can be seen at any time of the day when the shops are open. Last year, the High Court had pulled up the state government for “inhuman” treatment of customers who have to undergo “torture” for obtaining their favourite drink. Directing the state government to set up liquor outlets in a “civilised and cultured manner” rather than the current shoddy set-up, the High Court told the government to consider opening more takeaways so that people can obtain their bottle like other consumer goods in the country.
This had prompted the transport minister to float the idea of opening liquor shops in prominent bus stations of the “financially ailing” Kerala State Road Transport Corporation. This was shot down in no time since it would be considered an open invitation to passengers to take a pint or two before boarding buses. State excise minister M.V. Gonvindan said even as the government will open more liquor vends, it will also give equal emphasis to abstinence and more de-addiction centres will be set up. However, the fact that the largest numbers of consumers of liquor in the state are daily wage earners rather than the salaried class must be a worrying factor for a government that is said to represent the interests of the working class.
As expected, Church bodies and the opposition United Democratic Front criticised the new policy saying it would lead to more liquor consumption.
“Liquor will flow freely with the new policy and the government is least concerned about health and welfare of people” said senior Congress leader V.M. Sudheeran, a votary of total prohibition. Congress cannot hold on to the moral high ground on the issue is the biggest drawback the UDF faces in its fight against the government decision. However hard they may try, UDF cannot water down the fact that its liquor policy of 2015-16 was born not out of its convictions against drinking, but purely out of political compulsions on the part of OC and his state party president at that time, V.M. Sudheeran. The then policy was the progeny of one-upmanship between the two, a fact that was as clear as daylight to the public. The political drama enacted following the birth of this stillborn baby, bribe accusations by the liquor lobby resulting in the resignation of Kerala Congress party founder and the then finance minister K.M. Mani had done enough damage to the body politic of UDF than any hard liquor could.
As for the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council, which has been in the forefront of a campaign for a liquor-free Kerala for a long time, opposing the liquor policy is more a matter of prestige than anything else. The body has failed to answer how the drinking habit grows by the day among believers of the faith or rather what the Church had done to dissuade its community members, without doubt the largest alcohol consumers in the state, from indulging in it day after day.
Moreover, it was a bishop who not long ago paved way for an attack against Muslims in the state when he accused the community of indulging in “narcotics jihad”, luring girls from the Christian community with narcotics. It was proved beyond doubt that the allegation was baseless, narcotics have no religious connotations. The bishop had indeed touched upon the tip on an iceberg. In these last two years, there has been a quantum jump in the use and trafficking of narcotics, especially among students, in the state. This is going to be a bigger task for the government than providing liquor in healthier conditions.
But right now the government seems to be interested in widening the net for more drinkers. Pragmatism is the catchword of this second Pinarayi government, be it in matters of development (SilverLine is an example) or fattening government coffers. People’s concerns can wait. Given the liking of the people of the state to have a sun downer or two come what may, it will not be much of a surprise if the government just forgets about moderation and allow the moolah to flow in without any hindrance. Two cheers for that!