As Kerala Prepares for Dry Days, Around One Lakh Bar Workers Tighten Belts

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As Kerala Prepares for Dry Days, Around One Lakh Bar Workers Tighten Belts

Lakhs of bar workers face the prospect of joblessness in Kerala.

Thiruvananthapuram:  James Yohanan, 40, has been working in a bar since he was in his 20s. But as he puts together cocktails and serves drinks, he says these days he often thinks about committing suicide.

His family of five -- wife, two children and mother - depend on his monthly salary of Rs 15000 to get by. But he will not have a job after September 12, when a new decree by the state government - shutting down all bars in the state except for those in five-star hotels - comes into effect.

"I don't know what I will do after I am turned away from here. We neither have our own house nor our own land. I can only commit suicide," says Mr Yohanan.

The resort he works in will be forced to downsize employees across departments, as it is set to lose a substantial portion of its revenue once the bar shuts down. 


The state government's new policy may translate into the harsh reality of joblessness for hundreds of employees in Kerala's hotel industry.

The government has assured that it will provide financial assistance for self-employment to those who will be affected directly by the ban, but there is a rider: they need to be registered with the government.

According to rough estimates by the labour ministry, nearly 40,000 workers will be affected by the ban directly and another 60,000 indirectly; many of them are not registered.

"We have to have a holistic approach since we can't help people selectively," says Labour Minister Shibu Baby John.

But the ban on bars will also make a dent in the coffers of the government, which earns a sizeable revenue from the sale of alcohol.

Over 700 bars will shut down after September 12, but the state is yet to draw up a plan to support those who will be rendered jobless. Funds needed to financially assist those hit by the ban remain elusive, say sources in the government.

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