Kerala, the tipplers’ haven and a state probably with the highest per capita consumption of spirits in India banning alcohol came off as a surprise to many. However, the reasons cited for the ban are drunkenness, social disorder, laborers spending their salaries in Bevco outlets instead of looking after their families.
How did it start?
There were some 438 licenses of existing bars pending for renewal which was stalled because of the elections. Once the elections were over the Chief Minister of the state Omen Chandy instead of renewing them wanted to scrap the license altogether. A few people in the Government resisted his call to scrap the licenses but they were branded as supporters of “liquor mafia” that made the case worse and no one was ready to be called so.
The Christian churches praised the move, and the associated political parties supported too, even the coalition ally, the Muslim League, supported it. Another major support from working class women, as did all the moralists, human rights fighters, etc.
No public figure in Kerala or any renowned authority opposed to the decision, further made it hassle free to the government to implement it.
Let’s look at the numbers
Around 23% of Kerala’s revenues are from liquor industry and around 27% depends on tourism.
Bar workers and distillery employees are around 20,000 across the state.
So what will be the implications?
The three major sources of income to Kerala are the tourism, liquor and remittances from the Keralites working abroad. Now two of the three major sources will be affected. Along with that much of Kerala’s economic growth which depends upon attracting foreign investors, especially the setting up of IT companies given the quality of life available in the state.
Given alcohol ban it may hamper, as any company would hesitate setting up its plant where it’s employees can’t have a drink to relax themselves after the hard-work put in the company.
Apart from these Kerala hardly has the presence of any other industry and any other significant sources of income. So I think it can’t afford the wrath that may come down on it unless Govt comes up with some extraordinary measures to balance the revenues.
Also the the 20K people employed in this industry will be thrown out of work; they and their families will soon demand for relief plus it will further shoot up the unemployment rate in Kerala and many more people will look to leave India in the look for employment in Gulf countries or otherwise anywhere outside India.
During the winter when the tourism will be at its peak in Kerala, ban will further hamper the cause of Kerala when tourists may reconsider their choice of visiting a liquor banned state.
A recent poll on Holiday IQ portal stated that around 58% of people wanted to change their plans of travelling to Kerala, instead preferred going to Goa or Srilanka.
But will the ban definitely decrease alcohol consumption in Kerala?
TASMAC, Tamilnadu’s equivalent of Kerala’s Bevco, has announced that it will open new outlets along the length of the Kerala border, to cater to the demands of Keralite consumers,
So Kerala’s loss is Tamilnadu’s gain.
It will increase smuggling from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to cater to the demands of Keralites.
May even lead to growth of adulterated liquor, cheap liquor which might even kill the people.
Kerala has been on the top of HDI list among the Indian states consistently because of many government schemes that provide them community health centres, subsidized medicines. It does so through revenues made up sell of alcohol and tourism. With the ban there is a high chance that many of such benefits will be cut-down.
However the Supreme court has stalled the ban for now. Let’s see what is due.