The State Government in Kerala seems to be on the warpath. It seeks to eradicate all forms of vices from the state. The new liquor policy made people sit up and take notice. They made such a radical move by closing down all alcohol outlets, barring the five-star variety. It is indeed a revolutionary one. The fact is quite astounding when one considers that the highest revenue for the exchequer comes from the sale of alcohol. By taking a stand against a valuable source of income, almost Rs.8000 crores annually, the Government seems to indicate a willingness to be a strong policy maker.
Revolutionary or repressive
The government took this radical decision to ban alcohol in the state in August 2014. The move was so sudden, one wonders if the Chief Minister himself had any idea of such set of consequences. The move came on the insistence of the new President of the party, V.M. Sudheeran. He has been opposed to the sale and consumption of alcohol in the state and as a whole. The decision to not renew the licenses of the 418 bars was the first phase. The next thing everyone hears is the declaration of Mr. Oommen Chandy to close the whole trade by the beginning of next financial year.
Hard hitting the trade
Apart from the 418 bars already closed, 312 bars currently operational will get closed by next year. Their licenses won’t get renewed, and the trade will close by itself. Meanwhile, the storekeeper of the Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) in the state, the Beverages Corporation will find itself closed by the end of ten years. The government has decided to allow only five-star hotels to serve alcohol. Some clubs that serve alcohol to its patrons will need special perusal. The military quota alcohol distributions are beyond the control of the government, so they are left alone.
Some expensive changes
The state needs to recoup some of the expected losses, and the lawmakers are hitting hard. Duty on IMFL has increased by 20% to become 135%. Beer and wine will have an additional tax of 10% and the expected revenue from this is about Rs.1130 crores. The tax on cigarettes has increased by 8% taking it to 30%. The additional cess of 5% will serve to rehabilitate the employees of the state-owned bars, outlets and hotels. The drinking water has had the highest hike of 50% more. For every kiloliter of water consumed, the users will have to pay Rs.6 as opposed to the earlier Rs.4. Service charges have increased by 50% as well. Between Rs.1000-2000 worth it is 25% and beyond Rs.10000 it is 15% more.
Decisions for common good
The Union Health Ministry has applauded the move. In fact, the Chief Minister justified his actions stating that the damages caused due to alcoholism are far greater than the revenue from it. Although, it needs clarification about five-star hotels are allowed to sell alcohol as an exemption. Industry experts state that tourism will get severely affected. Most of the foreigners and out-of-state tourists will desist and decide to move to a different and more amenable locale is what they fear. The move of the government needs careful watching, although the action to tax drinking water was a move generating fear of future policies.