While the Kerala government announced sweeping restrictions across the state amidst the surging coronavirus outbreak, it has evidently given an exemption to the sale of alcohol by the state-run liquor outlets. The decision to allow the state-run Bevco outlets to continue about their operations without restrictions came on Monday, the day when the state saw a remarkable surge in the number of positive coronavirus cases in the state.
As 28 new coronavirus cases were reported on Monday, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan ordered to shut down all bars and liquor stores across the state. However, the state-run Kerala State Beverages (Manufacturing and Marketing) Corporation Limited (Bevco) liquor outlets were exempted from the restrictions and will remain open, he said.
“Customers cannot sit and drink. The counter sale will be allowed later if needed,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said.
When asked the rationale behind keeping the state-run liquor shops opened amidst extensive lockdown in the state, Vijayan justified his citizen by citing the decision taken by Dr Amarinder Singh’s Punjab Government which included the supply of “beverages” as essential items, along with groceries, in the view of all-encompassing strictures imposed in the state. This is shocking for a state which is hailed by the leftist and ‘liberals’ as an ideal state who is fighting coronavirus on the front foot.
Highlighting the social habits of residents of Kerala, CM Vijayan said that non-availability of alcohol in the state can have untoward ramifications. “That is our state! Non-availability of alcohol can lead to a lot of social issues in the state and we have seen its consequences in the past,” the CM said.
However, Kerala government’s decision to allow continuing the sale of alcohol through Bevco outlets has received widespread criticism from Congress and citizens of the state despite the advisories issued against public gathering in the view of the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country. In a desperate bid to contain the spread of the virus, Kerala had announced the closure schools, private offices, malls and cancelled public gatherings along with urging people to push their wedding dates or limit the number of guests.
Kerala is the state with the highest per capita consumption of alcohol. The state has gobbled down liquor worth around Rs 45,000 crore in the three-and-a years of the LDF government till October 2019. A significant chunk of government exchequer comes from the state’s liquor consumption. In 2019, the sale of legal liquor through Bevco outlets increased by 16 per cent as compared to sales in 2018.