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Church opposes Indian state diluting liquor laws

The communist government in southern Kerala state came to power by promising to reduce consumption of liquor
A high-level delegation from the National Defence College visits Technopark in Kerala on March 18. The communist-led government in the southern state plans to increase the availability of liquor in IT parks to target youths in southern Kerala state.

Customers stand in a queue outside a liquor shop in the southern Indian city of Chennai. (Photo: AFP / UCAN files)

Published: May 27, 2024 11:31 AM GMT
Updated: May 27, 2024 11:48 AM GMT

Indian Church bodies have opposed the communist-led government’s plan to boost the availability of liquor in IT parks to target youths in southern Kerala state.

The Kerala government is planning to allow “unrestricted flow of liquor to benefit the liquor lobby at the cost of public health,” warned Father Antony Vadakkekara, spokesperson of Kerala-based Eastern rite Syro-Malabar Church.

When the communist government of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan came to power eight years ago it promised to reduce consumption of liquor. Now it is planning to dilute laws, alleged the Vincentian priest.

The proposed changes to the liquor policy came to light after an audio clip of a bar owner went viral, hinting at the government's alleged willingness to favor bar owners for a bribe to the tune of 200 million Indian rupees (US$24,06,082).

In the clip, he is heard saying that the government was ready to allow liquor shops to function on the first day of every month which is a dry day in the southern state.

He further claimed the government was willing to allow liquor outlets to remain open after 11 p.m. and open more liquor outlets in IT parks across the state.

Kerala, known for its highest literacy among India’s 28 provincial states, has nearly 90 well-known IT parks.

Technopark, based in the state capital Thiruvananthapuram, employs around 72,000 professionals and houses a diverse mix of multinational corporations.

In the central Ernakulam district, InfoPark employs over 63,600 staff.

Kerala is the only Indian state where communists are in power.

The proposed changes are “disturbing for Kerala society as a whole,” Vadakkekara said and urged the state government not to go ahead with the policy change.

The Kerala Madhya Viruda Ekopana Samiti, an anti-liquor group that includes the regional Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC), staged a protest in Ernakulam on May 27.

“The government is trying to exploit people’s addiction,” said advocate Charly Paul, general secretary of the group.

Kerala Excise Minister M B Rajesh, however, has denied reports that the government had begun talks to amend the excise policy.

According to official data, alcohol is the most common psychoactive substance used by Indians with about 14.6 percent of the population between 10 and 75 years of age using alcohol. In Kerala, the percentage of alcohol consumption is 12.4 percent.

Kerala has 33 million people and 18 percent are Christians much more than the national average of 2.3 percent of India’s 1. 4 billion people.

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