Kerala's sustained anti-liquor campaign reduces sales

Thiruvananthapuram, Sep 20 (IANS) If there's one person who is basking in the glory of lower liquor sales, it's Kerala Excise Minister K. Babu.

Figures provided by Babu show that for the first time, there's been a five percent decline in liquor and beer sales in this fiscal till July. In value terms, the growth was a mere one percent, despite a five percent hike in sales tax.

"The primary reason for the downward trend in sales is because of the sustained anti-liquor campaign launched by our government. Both Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and I have already announced that we will not open a single new retail outlet," Babu told IANS.

The Kerala State Beverages Corporation (KSBC) is the sole wholesaler of liquor and beer, which is sold through 708 hotel bars and 383 state-owned retail outlets.

"The downward sales trend started after this government took over (in May 2011) and there has been a consistent drop in quantity and value terms," said a KSBC official who did not wish to be identified.

According to KSBC figures, sales of liquor and beer cases (12 bottles each) in the last fiscal (till March 31) was 34.5 million cases worth Rs.8,818 crore against 33.8 million cases worth Rs.7,681 crore in 2011-12. The figures for the current fiscal till July is 11.5 million cases valued at Rs.3,005 crore.

"We have drastically increased the spend on our anti-liquor campaigns. Initially, we gave out Rs.25 lakh and this time we have earmarked Rs.2 crore," Babu said.

The campaigns are being run at all educational institutions besides through the National Service Scheme and the Kudumbasree women's movement of the state government.

Rum reigns as the No.1 choice of tipplers, accounting for more than 55 percent of the liquor sold, followed by brandy with a close to 40 percent share. Vodka sales are at four percent. Gin, whiskey and wine together account for a just one percent share.

A recent study by a doctor at a leading hospital in the state said he has at least three new patients coming to him every month with alcohol-related liver diseases and pointed out that those in the 37-45 in the age group with liquor-related diseases will go up drastically in a few years' time.

"The campaign has to be heightened because gone are the days when the youth was firmly under the control of their parents. Today, it's a free-for-all among youth. Catch them young and save the state should be the buzzword," said the doctor, who did not wish to be identified.

(Sanu George can be contacted at sanu.g@ians.in)

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