TRIVANDRUM: Kerala, which now tops Indian states in alcohol consumption and is still growing at 16 per cent annually, is making some serious initiatives to reverse the trend.
As a first step, the state-run Kerala State Beverages Corporation and Kerala State Consumer Federation, which enjoy monopoly in liquor trade, the topmost contributor to the exchequer, will not sell and bars will not serve alcohol to those aged below 21 as against the existing limit of 18.
Besides, cinemas screening films depicting alcohol consumption without the warning scroll of “consumption of alcohol is injurious to health” in contrasting colours clearly visible and covering one-tenth of the screen will be penalised and its promoters could end up in jail for up to six months.
“Ten years back youngsters used to start drinking at 19 years of age. Now you can find guzzlers as young as 14,” K. Babu, the minister in charge of the liquor trade, told the state assembly on Monday.
“It’s reported that students and youth are attracted to this menace.”
Liquor sales touched an all-time high of Rs88.41 billion last fiscal year as against Rs78.6 billion in 2011-12.
The state government, which slapped prohibitively high taxes to discourage boozers in 1996, received Rs72.51 billion in taxes and trade commission.
There are 383 state-run outlets selling Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) across the state.
“The number of bar hotels has now increased to 744 from 144 ten years back. Alcoholism is the cause for 80 per cent of the divorces happening in Kerala and most of the accident deaths are due to drunken driving,” the minister said while moving the “Abkari (Amendment) Bill 2013.
Transport Minister Aryadan Mohammed said, along with drunken driving, the opposition to widening of roads and proliferation of vehicles too were causes for alarming rate of accidents on Kerala roads.
Surveillance cameras were being installed along the national highway to regulate speed of the vehicle to avoid accidents.
“Without widening roads, it’s impossible to prevent accidents.”
Also in the assembly, the opposition members staged a walkout protesting against infant deaths in the tribal hamlets of Attappady.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who also blamed alcoholism for the plight of tribals, said there were 56 deaths in these hamlets during the past four years.