- Legal age for drinking now 23 instead of 21 in Kerala
- Opposition Congress has called new order a gimmick
- State had started moving towards prohibition under earlier Congress rule
The average age of first exposure to alcohol in Kerala is said to be 14 years. Critics say the new rules will only make underage drinking secret.
Kerala has started moving towards total prohibition under the earlier Congress-led government.
The Oommen Chandy government, which had stopped granting liquor licences to all except Five-Star hotels, had said the state would be alcohol-free within a decade. Thousands of bars and pubs had been shut down across the state.
Though the move was hailed by social activists, owners and workers in the liquor and hospitality industry started strong protests. Later, a drop in tourism, one of the mainstays of revenue for the state government, was also attributed to the ban.
After the LDF government came to power earlier this year, it diluted the ban, allowing three-star hotels and resorts to sell alcohol. The government, however, said the minimum drinking age would be raised - a move that critics said was an effort to counter accusations of giving in to the liquor lobby.
The Congress, which is now in the opposition, has called it a gimmick.
"During our time the total number of hotels that served liquor was just two dozen and today that number has dramatically gone up... raising the age to 23 is just an eye wash," senior Congress leader Joseph Vazhackan was quoted as saying by news agency IANS.