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418 bars closed, but Kerala still on a high

Thiruvananthapuram: What if 418 bars in Kerala have not opened this fiscal -- liquor sales in the remaining 313 bars in the state have risen 95 per cent compared to the same period of last year.

The figures are according to a release issued by the state excise department on Wednesday at a function organised to unveil the "anti-liquor campaign" logo in the room of Kerala Assembly Speaker G. Karthikeyan.

Ever since veteran Congress leader V.M. Sudheeran took over as president of the party early this year, he has put his foot down following which the otherwise annual renewal of all the 731 bars has not happened ahead of the start of the current fiscal.

As a result, 418 bars were not allowed a renewal of their licence as a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report indicated these had poor infrastructure. Sudheeran has locked horns with Excise Minister K. Babu and other party leaders over this issue.

The two have taken pot shots at one another at every given opportunity, and Wednesday's release is another instance that the two continue to differ. Sudheeran, currently in the US, has time and again pointed out that his stand has helped bring down liquor consumption in Kerala.

The release said if the state's liquor sales in the last fiscal was Rs.9,373 crore, it will cross Rs.10,000 crore for the first time this fiscal.

The department will now use 0.3 per cent of the total sale value for running anti-liquor campaigns.

Sudheeran appears to have got support from the churches and anti-liquor campaigners besides the Kerala High Court which is hearing the pleas of the closed down bars.

In Kerala, liquor is sold in the bars and 383 state-owned retail shops with the state-owned Kerala State Beverages Corporation being the sole wholesaler.

Rum reigns as the number one choice of tipplers, accounting for more than 55 percent of liquor sold, followed by brandy, which has close to 40 percent, share and vodka (four percent). Gin, whiskey and wine together account for the remaining one percent.

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