It could get easier for people to tipple in Kerala in the days to come. If the Kerala State Cooperative Consumers’ Federation had its way, liquor shops under it will have special counters for online and telephone customers. The Consumerfed, which runs 36 hard liquor shops in the state, is keen on selling Indian made foreign liquor online and through phone calls, ahead of Onam next month. People could order their favourite drink, take a receipt of it, go to the liquor shop which are owned by Consumerfed, and collect their order on producing the bill. But, apparently, there is pressure from various quarters to do away with the proposal.
M. Ramanunny, managing director, Consumerfed, said to THE WEEK that there was no immediate plan for online sale of liquor. “Some media channels misinterpreted our suggestion as a decision,” said Ramanunny, “Excise minister [T.P. Ramakrishnan] was specifically asked by a few journalists on how long queues in front of liquor shops could be avoided, to which he replied that an online system or a phone order could be put in place.” The excise rules in Kerala, at the moment, don’t permit online sale of liquor, Ramanunny said. “Though, such a system, if in place, would have minimised the rush in front of liquor shops in Kerala. Let’s see if it can work out at a later stage,” he said.
Tourism minister A.C. Moideen had indicated a re-look on closure of liquor bars in tourist destinations after the closure of bars by the previous government saw a severe dip in tourist arrivals in the state.
Said Moideen to THE WEEK: “The government hasn't got any proposal regarding online liquor. It is not in the cards. People queuing in front of liquor shops is not a good sight. The government will have to decide on ways to curb such large gathering of people for liquor.”
People from upper strata are hesitant to stand in long queue at liquor outlets. Consumerfed, with such a plan, was eyeing them.
Said T.P. Ramakrishnan, excise minister, to THE WEEK: “Too much of crowd in front of liquor shops is not good. We will see how we can tackle the problem. The sale of liquor online has not been decided by the government. It was merely a suggestion by a few people. It is the duty of the government to look into the legal side to any proposal. Before that, it will be premature on my part to give an assurance on online liquor sale.”
The LDF government wants a change in policy towards liquor so that it suits the requirement of the tourism industry in the state. The UDF and the Congress oppose any such move.
Said K.C. Venugopal, Congress MP from Alappuzha, to THE WEEK: “Selling liquor online is dangerous. It will lead to easy access to liquor. Young people will be the prey. The government should not even think of such a proposal. It is completely wrong.”
Consumerfed’s move has also provoked anti-liquor activists. But, there is support for it, too. Said K.P.A.C. Lalitha, actor and chairperson, Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi, to THE WEEK: “Buying liquor online would reduce crowd at beverage outlets. I feel such a move should be welcomed. It is also important to have well-mannered people stand in queue in liquor shops. They should not cause annoyance to others.”
Said Padmapriya, actor, "Research says free choice with high tax is the best way to deal with liquor." But she cautions, "Domestic issues remain unresolved whether you keep liquor offline or online. The ripple effect of cheap liquor is dangerous. This is where the state should step in."