Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Beverages Corporation has been facing problems as at least 180 outlets have been rendered homeless after the Supreme Court’s order prohibiting the selling of liquor within 500 m of national and state highways after March 31st.
The state-run corporation have been trying to identify new places to relocate the outlets. But in most places, they are greeted by protesters.
In many localities across the state, local residents are coming out to protest against these relocations. In some places, they are joined by politicians.
Most of the protestors are women who say that a BEVCO outlet in their area will affect their peaceful life. They also have safety concerns as many resorts to drinking in the area after buying liqour.
Babu Cherian, a resident of Kolenchery in Ernakulam district, said,” A new beverages outlet in our area is set up at the entrance of the road that leads to many residents associations. Once such an outlet comes in this area, people from far off places also flock to the area. This affects the safety of our people.”
” Once the outlet opened, we noticed many buying liquor and having them on the roadside at about 7 pm. when our children from schools and colleges walk back home, they pass comments. It is not really safe for us,” he said, adding that this will affect their peaceful environment.
Cherian said that such outlets should not be opened in residential areas or thickly populated areas.
Several protests are erupting in different district right from Kasargod to Thiruvananthapuram.
In Thiruvananthapuram, students from Holy Angels Girls School took to the street along with local residents to protest against a BEVCO outlet opening near their school. The protest stopped only when the government promised that this outlet will not be reopened.
Anitha, a teacher at the school, said,”When the girls got to know about the outlet opening near their school they were concerned.”
“Our students use this road in front of the outlet to commute to and from school. We did not feel it would be a very safe environment for the girls. They did not feel it was right to be exposed to this kind of atmosphere, as many from different places will come to buy liquor here,” she added.
She said that when local residents started the protest, the students joined because they wanteda safe environment. Around 100 students from the high school along with teachers took part in the protest.
BEVCO is facing a lot of trouble as of the 270 BEVCO outlets in the state, around 180 have to be relocated. About 170 new places have been identified for relocation and started around 30 but in almost all places they were greeted with protests. In about 20 places the new outlets have been closed after protests.
Managing director Of BEVCO, H Venkatesh, said: “We have followed all the rules under the Abkari Act before identifying new places. We have followed the necessary distance required, about 200 m from educational institutions and temples and 500 m from national and state highways. If we don’t follow all this the excise license will not be provided to us. We have identified places according to the law.”
He added that they will initiate legal action as in many places their staff is being attacked by protesters. The officer said that the government has been apprised of the situation.
The situation is ironical as guzzlers in Kerala create new records in drinking every year and there was a huge outrage by them when the three and four-star bars were shut down in the state. In Kerala, the added problem is that only the BEVCO outlets and five-star hotels sell hard liquor, so if a major number of them cannot be relocated those wanting to buy liquor will have a tough time.
Beverages Corporation is a major income generator to the state exchequer. Last year they contributed about Rs 11,500 crore.
Officials at the corporation also raise concerns about the kind of protests. They alleged that at least in some places there are vested interests behind the protests. The official said that there have been protests in some places where there are bars functioning already within 150 m but the protest is only against the government outlet and not against the private bar.
The officials also raised concerns about black market of liquor functioning if outlets are closed in large number.