Thiruvananthapuram: The Left government in Kerala has moved to drastically dilute its predecessor's ban on alcohol by allowing hotels that are three-stars or fancier to sell alcohol. While the ban has been loosened, the minimum drinking age has been raised from 21 to 23.
- Left government says 3-star and higher hotels can sell booze
- Earlier government restricted sale to 5-star hotels
- Minimum drinking age raised from 21 to 23
In 2014, the Congress-led coalition announced that the coastal state would move to become alcohol-free within 10 years. As part of that policy, the government said only five-star hotels would be granted liquor licenses.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan met with his cabinet this evening to approve changes to the current policy.
Kerala has the country's highest alcohol consumption per capita. The restrictions on the sale of liquor battered the state's tourism. Declaring the earlier government's alcohol policy a "complete failure", Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that that though his administration is not in favour of prohibition, they do not support "promotion" of alcohol either. Deaddiction centres will be opened to help those struggling with alcoholism and public awareness campaigns will warn about the dangers of drinking, they said.
A few weeks ago, Dr Thomas Isaac, the state's Finance Minister, told NDTV that the impact on tourism was resulting in losses that were unsustainable. Under the new rules, alcohol can sold at airports in Kerala and toddy can be served at hotels.
In the election in 2016, the Left coalition was chosen to govern the state.
Sources said that with the changes cleared today, hundreds of bars that closed down will be entitled to apply for new licenses.