India. Kerala state to sell liquor online during Onama holiday

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Ahead of Onam, the Kerala State Cooperative Consumers’ Federation (Consumerfed) is all set to commence the online sale of liquor.

This adds credence to theories that the CPM-led state government is preparing to bring in changes to the previous Congress government’s controversial liquor policy, by which all bars outside of the five-star category were shut down.

Those who register online can collect the orders from special counters at the Consumerfed outlets.

M Mehboob, chairman of Consumerfed, said in Kozhikode that the online sale would be in line with efforts to avoid long queues outside outlets run by the federation and the Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco).

“We will introduce 59 brands in our retail outlets. We are also ready to open a liquor supermarket in Kozhikode if the government okays the proposal,” Mehboob told reporters.

Onam is the year’s biggest season in terms of the sale of liquor in the state. Consumerfed runs 36 Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) outlets and three exclusive outlets to sell beer. Measures to incorporate online sales into the federation’s services are still being worked out.

Poor standards of service at the government-run retail liquor outlets have been a contentious issue in the state, where liquor has dominated political discourse during the past couple of years.

‘Protect tourism’

Two ministers have reiterated their commitment to “protect” the state’s tourism industry from the impact of the closure of bars.

Excise Minister T P Ramakrishnan has been vocal about the policy’s ineffectiveness in bringing down alcohol consumption. Responding to questions on the Consumerfed move, the minister said the government would look at the possibility after the federation sends in a formal proposal.

Tourism Minister A C Moideen told reporters that bars in major tourism destinations should be allowed to serve IMFL. After the liquor policy was implemented, most of the bars have been converted to beer and wine parlours.

Leader of the Opposition and veteran Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala recently courted controversy by admitting that the policy, projected as people-friendly, did not benefit the Congress-led United Democratic Front in the Assembly elections.