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Why did the LDF (Left Front) government in Kerala relax the previous UDF (Congress) government’s liquor ban policy by allowing bars in hotels rated three stars and above to serve liquor? The reason is mainly economical.

The negative impact the ban left on the state’s tourism sector and its economy, and the huge loss of jobs have been cited as reasons for the relaxation of the prohibition policy.

The new policy approved by LDF government on Thursday (June 8) will allow more than 700 bars in three and four star hotels to reopen. The new policy will also allow hotels to serve toddy. Hotels rated with two stars will be allowed to run wine and beer parlours.

However, there is another reason why this policy reversal has taken place. This reason is also financial.

The ongoing turmoil in the West Asia where GCC countries—which include Saudi Arabia, UAE, Yemen, Bahrain and Egypt—severed ties with Qatar accusing it of funding and supporting terrorism, could also add to Kerala’s financial  woes. Sixty per cent of the nearly 7 lakh Indian workers in Qatar hail from Kerala. That is nearly 4 lakh. If they lose their jobs because of mounting tensions in the area, the massive remittances from those expatriate workers would suddenly dry up. Remittances form a large portion of Kerala’s income.

Kerala is so worried that its chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has approached Prime Minister Narendra Modi to secure the safety of its citizens. It is this double whammy of loss of income from both sides that has Kerala worried. The change in liquor policy reflects the state’s worry.

It may be recalled that in 2014, the UDF government had decided to not renew licenses of 418 bars, citing the poor quality of liquor served. Later, in August 2014, the government also decided to shut the remaining 312 bars and close 10 per cent of the government-run liquor shops every year as part of implementing complete liquor ban in the state.

Vijayan has said that the policy of the previous government of a complete ban on liquor is not “a feasible and practical solution.” He said that the restrictions had led the hotel industry to lose income and an estimated 4,000 people had lost their jobs.

India Legal Bureau

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