Kerala CM urged not to dilute new liquor policy

Kottayam/Thiruvananthapuram: Christians, including priests and nuns, Sunday held a peace march in Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s home town Puthupally, urging him not to dilute the new liquor policy, which aims to implement prohibition in Kerala in a phased manner.

Church of South India bishop Thomas K. Oommen led the march from Puthupally junction in Kottayama district. It ended in front of the Church of South India, to which Chandy belongs.

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The demonstrators’ original plan was to meet Chandy, who every Sunday holds morning durbar at his ancestral home in the town. But they failed to meet him as he was in New Delhi to attend a meeting of chief ministers, called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“We are praying that those in power should not make any dilution in the recently announced liquor policy. Liquor is an evil and there should be no relaxation made in respect to the announced decisions,” Bhishop Oommen told reporters after the march.

The march came days after Chandy said in the Kerala assembly that certain corrections in the policy would be made with regard to the tourism sector and rehabilitation of about 7,000 employees of the bars.

Since the statement, anti-liquor activists, especially the churches, are up in arms and demanding that Sundays, which became dry days from October, should continue to be so.

Kerala’s ruling United Democratic Front will meet Dec 15 to discuss the liquor policy.

The new liquor policy is about achieving prohibition in the state in a phased manner, and except the 21 five-star hotels, closed down all other bars in the state from Sep 12.

A series of cases has been heard in the Kerala High Court on the policy and last month the court gave the nod for 62 heritage, four-and five-star hotel bars to operate.

In Thiruvananthapuram, former defence minister A.K. Antony told reporters Sunday: “The state leadership is quite capable of handling all issues, including the liquor policy. The policy has added fillip to both the state government and the party (Congress) here.”