Kerala Tourism dept robbed Excise dept of right to decide on liquor policy: Congress

The opposition Congress in Kerala on Tuesday sought to sow discord within the Left government by alleging that the Tourism Department was encroaching on the Excise Department's authority over the liquor policy.
Leader of Opposition in the Assembly V D Satheesan Questions Tourism department's meddling with liquor policy
Leader of Opposition in the Assembly V D Satheesan Questions Tourism department's meddling with liquor policy

Thiruvananthapuram | The opposition Congress in Kerala on Tuesday sought to sow discord within the Left government by alleging that the Tourism Department was encroaching on the Excise Department's authority over the liquor policy.

Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly V D Satheesan questioned why the Tourism Department led by minister P A Mohammed Riyas is "meddling" with the liquor policy, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Excise Department headed by his cabinet colleague M B Rajesh.

"Hijacking is going on... What right or business does the Tourism Department have to hold discussions with the bar owners on reviewing the liquor policy? It is robbing the rights of the Excise Department and interfering in this matter.

"Unnecessary haste is behind all corruption. It is the Tourism Department that is actively behind the move to remove the dry day norm and increase the operating hours of bars in the state," he alleged.

At present, the first day of every calendar month is a dry day, when liquor is not sold in Kerala.

Satheesan claimed that initially the ministers of both departments, Rajesh and Riyas, lied that there were no discussions on the issue and then they made the officials lie about it as well.

Kerala Chief Secretary V Venu on Monday dismissed as "baseless" the media reports stating that the state government has decided to tweak the liquor policy. He said no such discussions have taken place.

He had said that on March 1, a secretary-level meeting led by him deliberated on the steps to be taken to improve the financial situation of the state and the overall administrative efficiency of the government.

During the meeting, it was pointed out that the state loses business opportunities such as national and international meetings, incentive trips, conferences, conventions, and exhibitions (MICE- Meetings Incentives Conferences Conventions Exhibitions) due to the dry day norm, he had said.

The Tourism Secretary was directed to take stock of the losses incurred by the state due to this and submit a detailed note after necessary discussions, he had said further.

On this issue, Satheesan on Tuesday said it was not the Tourism Secretary's job to review or recommend changes to the liquor policy.

The issue of the purported withdrawal of the 'dry day' policy snowballed into a controversy after an audio clip said to be of a bar association member allegedly asking other members to pay money for a "favourable liquor policy" was aired on TV channels.

The UDF has come out with allegations that the Left government sought Rs 20 crore from bar owners to make a policy favourable to them and demanded the resignation of Excise Minister Rajesh.

Brushing aside the allegations and the opposition's demand, Rajesh had said the state government has not yet held any deliberations regarding its liquor policy.

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