Curbs on tourist destinations to be lifted.
Thiruvananthapuram: With just a month left for announcing the new liquor policy, the ruling CPM has come to an understanding on making wide ranging changes in UDF’s liquor policy by allowing the reopening of bars in tourist destinations besides scrapping the decision to shut down 10 per cent liquor outlets annually.
The proposals are being considered for LDF’s new liquor policy which has to come into effect from April 1, 2017. The stress of the new policy would be on relaxing norms for tourist destinations to make liquor available for tourists and for international conferences.
CPM state secretariat meeting which took place a fortnight ago had discussed changes to be made in liquor policy with respect to tourist destinations. There is a plan to reopen around 40 bars located in tourist destinations.
The CPM move comes in the wake of tourism department’s detailed report seeking relaxation in sale and availability of liquor in tourism destinations. It had suggested that bars located in tourism destinations should be allowed to serve liquor.
The CPM believes that these measures were required urgently to save tourism sector which had plunged into deep crisis following the closure of bars.
The representatives of tourism industry had also conveyed their deep concern to the government about the heavy losses and the need to alter the policy which had devastated the tourism sector.
Hundreds of conferences, conventions and meetings which used to be held in the state were now happening in other tourist destinations like Goa and Rajasthan. Even the neighbouring countries most sought after venues for such events.
Meetings Incentive, Conference and Exhibition (MICE) Tourism segment is the worst hit because of the new liquor policy. According to industry people, organisers and sponsors of these events were heading for Sri Lanka and Thailand where all facilities are being offered to the visitors.
CPM is also in favour of special cards or permits for making liquor available in tourist destinations. There are plans to provide one day liquor licenses at reasonable charge for international conferences taking place in tourist destinations.
The LDF government had discontinued UDF policy of shutting down 10 per cent liquor outlets last year.
CPM and other LDF allies are of the view that UDF’s liquor policy which was flawed and brought in a haste, had resulted in bootlegging, illicit liquor, increased use of drugs and psychotropic substances.
The party is planning to come out with a comprehensive policy to protect and promote toddy sector. These schemes will be implemented with the active involvement of toddy workers.
The CPM proposals will be discussed in detail at the state committee meeting of LDF to be held after Assembly session and a final stamp on the new policy would be put then. The LDF is moving away completely from the UDF government’s policy of phased prohibition within ten years. It would be replaced with the LDF’s new temperance policy.
The excise policy has also had an adverse impact on tourist arrivals. In 2015, the tourism department had targeted to attract over 1.37 crore tourists including 12 lakh foreign tourists. However, it could get only 1.24 crore domestic and 9.7 lakh foreign tourists.
Meanwhile, when contacted LDF Convenor Vaikom Viswan said the proposals related to liquor policy had not been finalised yet.
CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran said the policy would be finalised at the appropriate time. “We have already made it clear in our election manifesto that we are not for total prohibition and we support temperance. The people of the state had given us massive mandate on the promises that we made in the manifesto. Obviously we will implement the promises,” he added.
‘No road curbs on bars, beer parlours’
The Attorney General of India has given a legal opinion to the state that the recent Supreme Court restrictions on liquor outlets would not apply to bars, beer and wine parlours and toddy shops. Only retail outlets of Kerala State Beverages Corporation and Consumerfed would be affected by the SC directive prohibiting liquor outlets within 500 metres on either sides of highways from April, Excise department sources said. Clubs with bar licences would also remain unaffected.
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