Kerala alcohol ban watered down

Bar, shops and hotel owners in the Southern Indian state of Kerala will breathe a sigh of relief this month as the government announces it will dilute its controversial alcohol ban

In August, the government said around 700 bars and some shops would be forced to close, working towards total prohibition in 2024. Nearly 400 bars have already closed under the policy, which permits only Kerala’s 20 to sell alcohol.

After three months of grappling with critics, the state’s chief minister Oommen Chandy told the media that he would be altering his hard-line plans, amid growing economic fears. Under the revised plans, a ban on Sunday sales of alcohol would be lifted and hotels would be offered a license to sell wine and beer, but not spirits.

Kerala, which gains 20% of revenue from alcohol sales, was facing huge economic upheaval. Its status as a popular tourist destination would come under threat, critics said. Speaking to the Daily Mail in September, India tour operator Rajiv Wahie noted an immediate drop in enquiries from prospective holiday-makers.

“Interest in holidays last year was tremendous but the last six or seven weeks I’ve noticed many fewer calls and bookings,” he said.

“If the ban goes ahead it will affect tourism on a huge scale. It will put small hotels out of business and the five star hotels will put their prices up even more,” Wahie told the paper. “We are all fighting against it.”

Early government estimates put the number of jobs expected to be directly affected by the ban at 40,000, with another 60,000 set to be indirectly hit. A failure to provide an adequate contingency for those businesses affected was also blasted by critics.

I his speech to the media this month Chandy said that since the policy was implemented three months ago, 10 hotel and bar staff had committed suicide.

The spirit of the policy would remain, he insisted, with the government still committed to solving Kerala’s escalating alcohol problems.

Kerala has the highest per capita consumption of alcohol in the country at 8.3 litres. The national annual average for alcohol consumption is estimated to be about 5.7 litres per person.

Ellie Clayton


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