Archbishop slams Kerala government’s liquor policy liberalisation





Archbishop Soosa Pakiam, head of the Latin Catholic community, said today the Kerala government move to liberalise liquor policy was unfortunate.Kerala government earlier in the day liberalised its liquor policy by taking away the powers of local bodies to regulate setting up of liquor outlets.Governor Justice P Sathasivam signed an ordinance making necessary amendments in this regard in the Kerala Municipality Act and Kerala Panchayat Raj Act.“The government has cheated us. They have decided to open the bars through overt and covert means and the new ordinance should be withdrawn immediately,” the archbishop said.With the amendments to the Panchayati and Nagarpalika Acts, it would be easier for the Excise Department to open liquor outlets without getting the nod of local bodies, he said.Kerala government, which is expected to announce its new liquor policy soon, had decided to amend the Acts in order to implement the liquor policy uniformly across the state and to end discrimination between the present outlets and new applicants.The amendment was brought in the Sect 447 of the Municipality Act and 232 of the Panchayat Raj Act, that gives power to local bodies to sanction liquor outlets.Protest erupted over the government move with delegation of religious leaders and anti-liquor activists including poetess Sugathakumari meeting the Governor and expressed their opposition to the ordinance.A delegation of Catholic bishops led by Archbishop Soosa Pakiam also met Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.Joining the issue, Opposition leader in the assembly Ramesh Chennithala reminded CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury of his promise that if LDF comes to power, not a single closed bar would be re-opened.Yechury had said this in April last year before the state assembly elections, Chennithala said in a letter asking him to keep his word.Chennithala had also met Governor to register his protest at the LDF government’s moves to bring in change in the liquor policy.The previous Congress led UDF government led by Oommen Chandy had brought in a significant change in the policy by which only five star hotels were permitted to serve Indian made foreign liquor, which virtually led to the closure of over 700 liquor bars across the state.Many of closed bars were later converted to wine and beer parlours.The closure of bars had severely affected the state’s tourism industry, besides causing a huge revenue loss to the state by way of taxes.

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