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Liquor policy not negotiable: Chandy

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Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy during an election Campaign rally supporting Congress Candidate in Coimbatore on April 19, 2014. (Photo: IANS)Despite simmering discontent in various quarters, including by many of his colleagues, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy Wednesday said there will be no change in the state’s liquor policy.

“Abstinence from liquor and prohibition is the two-prong strategy that will make our state achieve total prohibition. Phased prohibition has been our ultimate objective and what we have done now is to set a time limit to achieve that,” Chandy told reporters here.

According to the new liquor policy of Kerala government, introduced last month, the remaining 292 bars in the state will close down Sep 12. The government has not allowed 418 bars to open this fiscal due to poor infrastructure in them.

The new policy allows only 20 five-star hotels in the state to serve liquor. From Oct 2 this year, all Sundays will be dry days. Out of the 383 state-owned retail liquor shops, 10 percent will close down each year paving way for Kerala to achieve complete prohibition by Oct 2, 2023.

When asked about the reservations on the liquor policy expressed by some of his colleagues in the cabinet, in his party and by many others, Chandy said: “During the decision-making process, I found myself alone on one side and all the rest on the other side (demanding prohibition). So I also joined the other side.”

Meanwhile, a section of the owners of bars which have not been allowed to open this fiscal have filed a petition in Kerala High Court.

Upholding the state government’s new liquor policy, Kerala High Court Wednesday dismissed a petition filed by the Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association which had challenged the decision announced by the government last month.

In its ruling, the court said liquor business was not a fundamental right and the state government has made things very clear in its liquor policy.

The association said it would challenge the high court verdict in the Supreme Court.

Last month, the state government formulated a liquor policy under which all the 710 bars in the state will be closed to achieve total prohibition in the next 10 years.

From the next fiscal, liquor would be available only in around 16 five-star hotels operating in the state.

From Oct 2 this year, all Sundays will be dry days. Out of the 383 state-owned retail liquor shops, 10 percent will close down each year paving way for Kerala to achieve complete prohibition by Oct 2, 2023.

The court order came hours after Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said there would be no change in the state’s newly-announced liquor policy.

“Abstinence from liquor and prohibition is the two-prong strategy that will make our state achieve total prohibition.

“Phased prohibition has been our ultimate objective and what we have done now is to set a time limit to achieve that,” Chandy told reporters here.

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