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Kerala govt approves UDF move to close down bars: CM Oommen Chandy

Thiruvananthapuram: In a swift action, a day after Congress-led ruling UDF recommended shutting down over 700 liquor bars attached to hotels below the five-star categories, the Kerala Government today approved the new liquor policy and also imposed a five per cent cess on liquor.

Announcing the decision at a press conference here, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the Cabinet would formally ratify the decision in its next meeting.

On another UDF proposal to declare all Sundays as dry days apart from the existing dry days, which include the first day of every month, he said 'The Sunday Dry day would commence from October 2 next.

The five per cent cess on liquor sold through Beverages Corporation outlets would be used to set up a Fund for rehabilitation of employees who lose jobs due to closing down of the bars and for creating awareness against liquor among the people, Chandy said.

A total of 418 bars already remained closed, and the other 312 bars also would be closed this financial year, he said. Stating that the new liquor policy was a final phase to achieve UDF's goal of taking the state to total prohibition in ten years, he said government had received legal advise that the now functioning 312 bars also could be closed during the financial year itself after completing certain financial formalities on licence fees.

The new liquor policy makes it clear that only five-star hotels will have bars to sell Indian Made Foreign Liquor. The decision, taken by the UDF leadership meeting Presided by Chandy, ended a long-drawn feud in the state unit of the Congress and the coalition as a whole over the question of renewing licences of 418 bars which were found to be lacking in quality.

On UDF recommendation of phasing out Beverages Corporation outlets, Chandy said ten per cent outlets would be closed down every year to wipe out them in 10 years and this would come to around 39 shops per year.

Chandy also said new liquor policy was a unanimous decision of the UDF and has the support of all sections in the society.

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