Why Kerala government is not opening liquor stores?

What's holding back Kerala government from opening liquor outlets?

Kerala government's decision not to open liquor outlets all on a sudden seems to be not just to avoid crowding but also in view of strong resentment from a large section of women and prohibition activists against resuming liquor sales in Kerala.

While some states already decided to resume liquor sale after the center relaxed lockdown norms, the left-front government in Kerala decided not to swiftly open the shops citing that the crowd at liquor outlets could be beyond the control and hence there could be the risk of COVID-19 spread.

However, it seems that the Pinarayi Vijayan government, which gained much popularity with its drive against COVID-19, was quite concerned if the opening of liquor shops may cause a dent on its image as a large section of women and prohibition activists strongly objected to the opening of liquor outlets citing that many alcoholics were slowly recovering from addiction as the liquor outlets were remaining shut for over a month.

Teeradesha Mahilavedi, a forum of women of coastal areas, recently submitted a memorandum to Kerala government pointing out that after the liquor sales were stopped there was a peaceful atmosphere at many families in coastal areas as men in the family were not consuming liquor. A recent survey conducted by the Kerala Institute of Local Administration also cited that non-availability of liquor led to peaceful living in many families and enhanced family bonding. However, there were also instances of women facing harassment from men as a result of withdrawal syndrome, said the study. Many political leaders and prohibition activists also took a stand against resuming liquor sales.

These factors seem to have prompted the government not to hastily open liquor outlets as it could invite displeasure of a large section, especially women of coastal areas who are often considered as potential vote banks on many parts of Kerala. The local body elections are set to happen in a few months' time and the Assembly elections in another one year time.

Kerala had even initiated an attempt to supply liquor to those suffering from withdrawal syndrome based on the doctor's prescription. But that was stayed by the Kerala High Court. It also triggered strong resentment against the government. Hence the government would be more cautious in further steps towards liquor sales.

However, since the liquor sales are major sources of revenue of around Rs. 2,500 crore annually, the cash strapped government may not be able to hold back liquor sales for long.