Kerala’s new liquor policy aims to revamp toddy industry

Left government’s liquor policy in Kerala sparks debate, with stakeholders welcoming focus on toddy while raising concerns about supply, adulteration and opposition criticism

| Updated: 28 July, 2023 10:04 pm IST
As per the new policy, the bar licence fee has been hiked and the rules for restaurants within tourism zones have been liberalised (Photo Courtesy Twitter @KeralaTourism)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, KERALA: Gearing up to raise the revenue of the state government by promoting toddy, the traditional alcoholic beverage and increasing the production of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL), the Left government in Kerala has introduced the new liquor policy, 2022-23 that has been approved by the state cabinet.

As per the new policy, the bar licence fee has been hiked and the rules for restaurants within tourism zones have been liberalised.

Excise minister MB Rajesh said that the government would pursue the production and marketing of liquor with low alcohol content made from locally available fruits. Also, all toddy shops in the state will have a standardised design, with the toddy sold in the state branded as ‘Kerala toddy’.

The government has also decided to grant licences to restaurants in popular tourist destinations to sell beer and wine during the tourism season.

“The state currently permits 559 foreign liquor shops to operate. Currently, only 309 of them are operational. We will ensure that the remaining ones are also operational”, MB Rajesh said.

The minister added that the process to amend the existing rules to permit the sale of liquor in pubs in IT and industrial parks is underway.

The state has meanwhile decided to increase the bar licence fee from ₹30 lakhs to ₹35 lakhs. The fees for serving liquor at clubs like seamen and marine officers have been hiked from ₹50,000 to ₹2 lakhs.

Even as the stakeholders in the industry welcomed the new policy, many in the industry have raised concerns regarding the availability of toddy for serving in all shops, which, under the new policy, would be revamped as food joints.

“The sector was completely neglected over the years, with more focus being given to Indian-Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL). Consequently, many abandoned the profession,” said N Azhakeshan, state president of the Kerala Toddy and Abkari Workers Congress (KTAWC), which is affiliated with INTUC.

Chittur taluk in Palakkad had been the main source of toddy for Kerala, supplying it to 12 of the 14 districts. However, there was a serious mismatch between the number of palms being tapped in Chittur and the toddy being transported to other districts. Tree tax was being paid for trees not tapped to falsely claim that the toddy being transported had been tapped from such trees.

Many of the stakeholders also raised concerns about adulterations. “If fresh toddy is to be served in food joints and promoted as a traditional drink, there should be adequate supply to meet the demand. Else, it will give rise to adulteration,” said KTAWC district president K Sivan.

On the political side, the Opposition Congress has criticised the new liquor policy, stating that the policy is bizarre and totally against the promises made in the LDF manifesto.

“On one end, you run campaigns against alcohol addiction and on the other side, you are opening up the availability of it in every nook and corner. Drugs are freely flowing in the state and big sharks are never caught. It’s absurd and bizarre,” said opposition leader VD Satheeshan.

Also Read Story

What Kejriwal can do & can’t: Here’s what conditions in SC bail order are…

SC grants interim bail to Kejriwal, but to remain in jail

Rahul Gandhi urges civility towards Smriti Irani following Lok Sabha results

CBI arrests alleged mastermind in NEET-UG paper leak case