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'Keep harvest festival liquor-free' plea

Dismayed archbishop speaks out against Kerala's love of alcohol

'Keep harvest festival liquor-free' plea
Women dance during the celebration of the Onam harvest festival in Kerala reporter, Kochi

September 8, 2011

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A top Church official in Kerala dismayed at  increasing levels of alcohol being consumed at this year’s Onam, a ten-day harvest festival,  is urging people to cut-back on the amount of liquor they consume in future. “People now celebrate Onam by consuming large amount of liquor,” lamented Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council president Archbishop Andrews Thazhath of Trichur in a statement on Tuesday. Hindus believe that during Onam, Mahabali, a benevolent king who once ruled Kerala, visits their houses. People from all religions celebrate Onam, in which sports and cultural activities are staged, and finishes with a lavish communal or family vegetarian meal. However, over the years, it has provided many of the state’s 32 million people with an excuse to consume even more alcohol than they do already, according to the archbishop. During Onam last year, Kerala sold 1.6 billion rupees (US$33.7 million) worth of liquor, a 17.6 percent increase on the previous year’s sales. Annual liquor sales total around 700 billion rupees, almost 40 percent of the state’s total revenue. This increase in liquor consumption is an alarming trend, Archbishop Thazhath said. The Church wants to educate people to celebrate a “liquor-free Onam” to lead society from alcoholism, “a great social evil,” he added. The archbishop has the backing of Kerala’s excise minister K. Babu. The minister said yesterday that he wants to discourage drinking as Kerala consumes more liquor than rice. Kerala sells only 200 billion rupees of rice annually, the minister noted. “We should learn from our past mistakes,” celebrate Onam without liquor, and drink less generally, he added. Related reports: Church to oppose new liquor laws

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