Kerala govt brings liquor bars closer to schools and religious places

The Kerala government on Friday set the bar on liquor bars so low that it can now be opened just opposite a school, college or place of worship, with the new rule reducing the distance to a mere 50 metres, ie, just across the road.

Opposition leader and former state president of the Congress party Ramesh Chennithala commented that the LDF government would now go for bar-attached schools and bar-attached temples to cater to tourists.

State excise minister justified the move saying it is meant for five-star and heritage liquor bars and is intended to help better serve tourists who flock to Kerala in search of its liquor shops.

The government's move comes as a heavy blow to efforts of social and religious organizations fighting the menace of liquor and drugs that is posing a big threat to the future of millions of children.

Under the new rule, state-run liquor distribution network can open a shop just opposite a school, a church or a temple provided it has a heritage tag.

The new rule seems to have been specificalIy brought to foil the attempts of schools and religious organisatins from moving court against attempts to skirt the old 200 metre bar on liquor bars.

In February this year, primary school children of Holy Angels Convent School in Thiruvananthapuram had successfully shut down a liquor shop that had opened near their school.

Sister Susy, principal of the school was elated when children of the all-girls school protested against the opening of a state-run liquor shop, just 50 meters away from the school gate. That, however, was when the Kerala Abkari Act clearly prohibits liquor shops from being set up within 200 meters of sites, including temples, religious establishments, schools and SC/ST colonies.

That has now been undone by the state government in one stroke. The law, however, needs to be amended to bring the new rule into effect.