In a 'triumphant' day for the locals who relish the occasional peg or two, as many as 77 bars were reopened across the state after the liquor policy was renewed by the Government led by the Left Democratic Front (LDF).
As of Saturday, 81 liquor bars submitted applications to the excise department, out which 77 were reopened today. Out of these, the maximum bars were Ernakulam-based, while Idukki had the least number.
The government is also proposing to open local toddy shops that were earlier sealed.
Elated customers, who rushed into bars to commemorate the new policy, said it was better to drink in bars than at home in front of their families.
"We enjoy drinking on happy occasions. It is better that the government reopened these bars. Now we will not have to feel guilty about drinking in front of our children and leaving a negative impression in their minds," said Saji, a local.
Another local, Ajeesh, felt that the government's policy will help reduce the expenditure on liquor, adding that the old policy certainly did not curb liquor consumption in the state.
In the recent past, a consolidated report on liquor consumption patterns in India showed that Kerala ranks highest in the list of alcohol consumption in India, so much so that the liquor ban forced people to cross state borders to fulfill their intoxication requirements!
The previous Congress-led United Democratic Front ( UDF) government in 2014 banned the sale of Indian Made Foreign liquor ( IMFL), except in five star hotels, which led to the closure of over 700 liquor bars below the five star category across the state. Eventually, some of them were suggested to be re-instated as beer and wine parlors.
According to reports, the policy severely hampered tourism in the state, and huge amount of losses of revenue were incurred.
Supporting this stance, a local even raised the question of 'What is Kerala without liqour'!
Citing this to be their main agenda of their election manifesto, the Left-led government capitalized on the opportunity at hand and announced a liberalisation of the existing liquor policy in the state. Under the implications of the new policy, three and four-star hotels will now be allowed to sell liquor.
Subsequently, as projected, the locals have been showering praises upon the government, hailing the lifting of the ban to be beneficiary, irrespective of the level of alcohol-induced abuse and violent mishaps that have been reported.
Although the locals have extended support, the government has received flak from the Opposition, who has termed the new policy to be a 'failure'. Similarly, social activists have also condemned alcoholism to be the main reason for heinous crimes like sexual violence, abuse, and so on.
The new policy has also facilitated an increase in the minimum age for drinking from 21 to 23 years old. Also, to assist de-addiction, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced the facilitation of rehabilitation centers and campaigns to generate awareness about the hazards of drinking.
Contrary to the preceding liquor policy, under which the operational timing of the bars was 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., the new policy has proposed that the bars will function from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.